Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Friday, November 26, 2010

Week In Review

Thanksgiving meal 2010

Challah bread for Thanksgiving

backyard winter wonderland

turkey hot out of the oven

Jacob ready for a sled ride

Grandson Jacob  studying the Christmas ads
This past week brought crazy cold weather to the North Woods of Idaho.  We had a few days with sub-zero temps.  A few days where the nights were warmer than the days.  Snow and blizzard conditions as well.  I have not ventured outside much .. other than to drop off or pick up someone in town.  No Black Friday shopping for me; sleep is better medicine than rushing around in the middle of the night en mass looking for a bargain.  A meal of scrumptious turkey, ham, taters 'n gravy with cranberries and green beans will be on the menu tonight.  Turkey stock is simmering on the stove to freeze for soups. 

During the quiet moments of the week, I've been sewing a night gown similar to the one in the photo; just have to do the arms and buttons.  It's been a while since I've sewn clothing .. and with my near sighted vision not being what it used to be .. it was rather tedious.  Sewing skills are on the decline .. but I think it's a skill worth practicing.  The knitting needles have seen little rest as dish clothes are flying off at the speed of light ;) 

nightgown pattern I'm working on
What's going on in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quick and Easy Huckleberry Syrup

At least once a week I make French toast or waffles for breakfast.  Trying to find better alternatives to store bought 'syrup' .. and not being able to always afford real maple syrup, through a little trial period the past two weeks, I've come up with a winner topping.  Many homemade syrup recipes call for a 1:2 ratio of water to sugar.  By adding just a bit of organic corn starch, you can significantly reduce the added sugar.

Easy Huckleberry Syrup

scant 1/3 cup organic raw sugar
1 tablespoon sucanat (unprocessed sugar .. dark brown from retained molassas)
1 cup cold water
1-1/2 teaspoon organic corn starch
pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon good vanilla
1-2 tablespoons huckleberries (raspberries, or blueberries)

huckleberry syrup

homemade French (challah) bread toast with huckleberry syrup
In a small saucepan add the sugars, water, salt and cornstarch; stir well until the cornstarch is completely dissolved.  Bring to a slow boil over medium heat for about a minute or so until the syrup thickens.  Add the butter, vanilla and huckleberries and cook for another minute.  Makes 4-6 servings .. store any leftover syrup in the fridge and use within a few days.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Call It A Wrap

A nice drape of snow will look lovely over the barren garden #1
Garden #2 mulched and tucked away for winter
With our unseasonably warm autumn weather, I have been able to tuck away the gardens for their winter nap of rejuvenation at a slower pace.  The Spanish roja garlic has been planted and mulched, Swiss chard and spinach are growing under cover, and a few broccoli plants with side shoots were left in place.

garden sink back splash .. nearly completed
Our garden sink project is nearly done .. just waiting for some grout around the tiles .. hopefully to be finished in the next day or so.

Compost from the bottom of the bin has been removed to make more room for winter use at the top opening.

Strawberry beds have been thinned and heavily mulched.  I hope these June bearing plants do better next year .. in the spring they will get transplanted outside the fenced garden space and draped with deer netting .. they are prolific and take up so much room.  The wild strawberries seem to be undisturbed by the deer .. let's hope these will do the same.  A patch of ever-bearing berries will be added in the spring.

Now it's off to the library to check out some gardening books for my winter reading, and hit the knitting needles, and soap making supplies, and, and, and ... endless possibilities with the garden under wraps.  What will you do with your free time this winter?
compost bin emptied a bit ... black gold
straw over the berry plants

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Grandma Elizabeth (Libby)

Grandparents George & Elizabeth Burge with George Jr.
... is one of my greatest sources of fond memories ... relating to ... all things homemade.  She was raised on a farm and from what I can recall, cooked fresh .. grew a garden .. canned food .. baked fresh bread .. bottled hot sauce .. even cooked up squirrel for my pop when we'd visit.  She was a living relic .. a holdover from a by-gone era that I had the privilege of knowing.  As I swelter over a hot stove little images of grandma pop into my mind; she was always standing over a hot stove .. even in her old age.  Hard work .. laundry done on a wringer machine down in the cellar .. hiking up and down those stairs with baskets of laundry .. hanging them outside to dry .. a big old cast iron cooking kettle on a tripod stood sentry over the backyard .. this I'm sure is where she would have cooked up her lye soap.  She didn't have to worry about artificial ingredients poisoning her family ... very few ready made products ever made it home in her basket.  She got up at the crack of dawn to make homemade yeast raised cinnamon rolls .. fry chicken .. bake biscuits.  Her home is where I got my hankering for all things homemade.  Do you have a grandma that inspired you?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Celebrating Thirty Years

... of marriage today.

On This Our Wedding Day, 11//8/1980 - Mr. & Mrs. Mac

Thirty years later ...
Little did we know back then  ... how thirty years would pass by so quickly  .. but here we are still in love .. with, Lord willing, a few more years to squeeze out of life.  I'll  never regret the path our lives have taken .. the hardships and good times all rolled into the same package of love.  Never will regret the time I've had at home nurturing our children, home schooling years, becoming a grandmother, growing older with my best friend.   Through thick and thin .. richer and poorer ... sickness and in health .. I still say 'I DO' ...

Old Irish Blessing

May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow
May the soft winds freshen your spirit
May the sunshine brighten your heart
May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you
And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday ... (a day late;)

Indian Summer & the clothesline

second crop of berries

bialy (roll) dough

autumn colors still lingering

some of today's garden pick

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

An Unintended 'Sweet' Treat

under developed walla-walla onions
Our walla-walla onions were planted directly in the soil from seeds this year and never developed bulbs.  Not wanting to just waste the large green onions that grew, I sliced and diced the tops and dried them in my dehydrator (oven).  They came out crispy, bright green, and have the characteristic sweetness familiar to their famed  name-sake bulb onions.  This treat will make a good topper on baked potatoes this winter; I'm thankful the frost didn't take them :)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Small Steps

Big gains. 

It's hard to remember shopping with store coupons for ready made food products.  Our food bill was about double what it is now.  The change to eating whole foods started off slowly and has snowballed.  A little step here and there has added up to a total makeover with more changes to follow.  Having a set amount of cash to shop with each month, slowly stocking up on single item pantry/freezer goods (flour, eggs, veggies, meat .. etc) .. makes for quick meal preparation and planning.  Purchasing went from several times a week to once or twice a month.  Honestly .. yesterday was big shopping day for the month of November.  Our budget is $400 cash (family of four); this does not include much meat as that is separately budgeted and purchased from a local ranch each summer and kept in a chest freezer.  Having a well stocked pantry, I came home with only four bags of grocery staples.  Milk, cheese, spices, potatoes, tea, chips, etc. leaving me $220 until the end of the month.  Over the summer, the garden and local u-pick farm supplied fresh produce, much of which has been frozen, canned or dried for winter's use.  Buying and growing locally usually ensures better quality.  Getting to know the farmer and their farming practices helps when making choices outside of your own garden.  Separate freezer space allows for extra gallons of milk to be stored until needed, eliminating that dash to the market (that turns into a $20 shopping spree).  Milk and hard cheese both freeze beautifully.  Just remember to pour a little out of the carton to allow for expansion; the extra can be put in a wide-mouth labeled mason jar and frozen.  When we are out of milk it's nice to have a few cups in the freezer to tide us over until shopping day.  Learning to budget food has taken about six months.  Eliminating convenience foods has freed up dollars to buy good quality staples such as flour, oil, milk, produce, etc.  With the exception to canning and bread making, cooking from scratch takes no more time than ready made convenience food with practice.  Adapting our favorite family recipes to be more nutritiously prepared has won over my family to eat better. 

photo by Mrs. Mac
Yesterday's lesson:  Everyday I try to learn something new in the kitchen.    My husband and daughter still prefer those yummy-foo-foo sweetened (FAKE) creamers.  Thinking outside of the BIG BOX store mentality, (and not having the money in the budget for their 'desires') I purchased half-and-half and doctored it up, making it a little less sweet and without all the FAKE chemicals.  We call it Autumn Carmel Spice Coffee Creamer, they're hooked :)  .. I'll drink mine black or with a splash of milk.  You can make flavored creamers using a similar method and your flavor of choice.

Autumn Carmel Spice Coffee Creamer:

1/2 pint good quality half and half (the only ingredients should be cream and milk)
1 Tablespoons organic sucanant (unrefined sugar)
2-3 Tablespoons organic raw sugar
dash of cinnamon
small pinch of sea salt
1 Teaspoon good quality pure vanilla flavoring (watch the ingredients .. they should all be pronounceable and familiar ones:)

Put a few tablespoons of half and half in a small sauce pan.  Add the sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt.  Stir over medium heat for just a moment until the sugars dissolve.  Do not let it come to a boil or the butterfat will separate and float on top of your coffee (bleck).  Slowly add the additional half and half and the vanilla.  Stir until well mixed.  Cool and pour back in the carton .. marking it as flavored coffee creamer.

The road to better nutrition is as individual as each family.  Do you have a favorite shopping strategy?

Monday, November 01, 2010

An Awakening

Nearing the end of gardening season.

Storing (drying) food for winter's use.
... is slowly taking place in the western world.  Perhaps from shoddy goods, a desire for better health, knowledge of big ag's poisonous onslaught, enlightenment of how our food is produced, a desire for REAL FOOD, these and many more reasons (economic) people are sharpening their gardening 'tools' and rethinking how to live a better life.  A life apart from the entanglement of BIG BOX companies that produce FAKE FOOD.  Food that robs the very life from a person's health at the cost of the all mighty buck.  Well .. the buck stops here with my family.  We need to educate and nurture our loved ones back into the 'fold' with good food .. not just served up at the table on a Sunday afternoon .. but how to make better choices when eating and living each day .. even in this fast paced, out of control work system many of us are in.  Standing together, we CAN knit our families a better future; are you game?