Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Waffling

I'm vacillating today. I go back and forth within a matter of moments from optimistic, to discouraged. From peppy to overwhelmed. From enthusiastic to lazy.

Is it hormonal? Very possibly. And it's also some external stimuli as well.

I'm reading Ruth Stout's books about mulching, which excite me and make me look forward to gardening when I usually see it just as a chore necessary for me to get to can things. But then I take a look at the waterlogged garden, with water lying all over it, and knowing that I should have lettuces and greens planted already, I feel beaten before I begin. I sometimes think that gardening really is just a bit beyond me.

I can come up with a million things that would be enjoyable and productive to do today, but thirty seconds later, I'm apethetic and feeling a bit teenager-y. I could knit, but my hands hurt. I could clean, but then it'll all just be dirty again. The garden is waiting, but it's another rainy day. I could read, but then I'd feel guilty for not doing any of the other things. I'd like to shake myself and tell myself, shape up, young lady, there's a lot of people with no choice at all what they'll do on a given day.

Is it the weather? It is a rainy day, but pleasant, and the birds are certainly able to enjoy it. I can hear them singing, and see them chasing each other around our front porch.

I love catching up on blogs everyday, and really enjoy all the tips and home-y news from everyone else, but I also become so frustrated and feel so futile and impotent when I read about things like Ivory's problems with her city on Little House in the Suburbs. I understand that there's no shortage of bad news on the internet and in the world, but this is a topic that I feel very passionately about for which I see no solution. Rules that allow very large useless animals to be kept as pets, but classify anything useful as livestock make me very angry. The classism and downright snobbery involved in the passing of these laws infuriates me. And the personal freedoms that are coded and regulated right out of our lives seem only to be missed by a very small minority.

My usual philosophy is that if I have something to complain or worry about, I need to solve it instead, or just accept it and move on. I guess I'm feeling unable to do either right now, though writing about things has helped a bit. I know that my regular readers are more used to upbeat informative posts, but I'm feeling a strange combination of eager and pensive today, and looking for an outlet for some pent up thoughts and energy.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Giant Eggs are a Herald of Spring!

Nope, we didn't get a duck. One of the hens is really outdoing herself. On the left is a regular egg of the everyday sort, and on the right is the super gigantic egg I collected the other day.

On the left is the regular egg cracked open and on the right is the contents of mr. monster egg. We were hoping for a triple yolk is such a big one, but double is all right by me as well.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

A Forgotten Cake


I forgot to post this cake I made last weekend for our St. Patrick's Day dinner. It's made with one square cake pan, and four mini hear shaped pans. I frosted the whole square layer, then placed the hearts to form a shamrock, frosting between and around them.
I'm finishing my final bits of cleaning and such before my company arrives this evening. I'm also going to do some make ahead meals for later in the weekend, and perhaps make a special dessert as well. It's not everyday I get to feed other people, and it's one of my favorite pass times, so I think a peanutbutter cream pie is definately in order.
You all have a great weekend and watch out for that snow that's supposed to come!

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

News from the Way-Back

There's a very large part of our back yard that the neighbor told me when we moved in would grow wild flowers. So I left it unmowed, and the result was a scraggly brushy mess with very tall woody weeds. We want to get it cleaned up, though we're unsure what course of action to take, since our little push mower is definately not the tool for the job. I generally just call this section the way-back, as in, "What the heck are we gonna do about the mess in the way-back of the yard?" Here is the view of the back of the house from the middle of the way-back. You can see it's brushy and a bit messy.


And here is a clue to what I found the other day in the way-back that definately does not belong there.

This is not my pine tree! Where the heck did it come from? We don't have a pine or evergreen anywhere on the property (something I'd hope to remedy this spring, but not exactly like this).


At first I thought it was a Christmas tree, but Adam pointed out I couldn't know that for sure unless there were presents under it. Sometimes my little brother is so wise. Now I'm leaning away from the dumped Christmas tree theory, since the bottom limbs aren't trimmed, and I'm thinking maybe it's one someone cleared that blew into our yard. But could a whole tree just blow here? Or is someone using our way-back as their own brush pile? All I know for sure is that it's way past time to get the way-back cleaned up and turned into the orchard!


To Do List Update:
I've finished a number of things on my big list so far. A couple (painting the porch chairs and moving the chickens) were scrapped for better weather, since it's supposed to be rainy for the next couple of days. I've scheduled what's left.

Today:
1. Bring down air mattress and set up guest bed in my sewing room.
2. Pack up the last of the St. Patrick's Day things and take them to the storage area.
3. Clear off the bill payers desk and make a verdict on it's usefullness.
4. Finish meal plan and go grocery shopping
5. Call my friend about the chairs for the homemakers' club and set up a pick up time for next week
6. Finish all laundry

Tomorrow:
1. Vacuum couch
2. Move all the furniture and sweep and mop all the floors
3. Do any food prep that can be done ahead (make fruit trays and veggie trays and crackers and cheese slices)
4. Try to win the on-going fight against cat fur on every obvious surface before my company arrives.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Playing Hooky

Well, I don't have a great informative post for today, because I'm taking off to celebrate my birthday with my husband. He took a whole day off, just to hang out with me. And I'm gussied up, and ready for my day on the town. (Well, as gussied as I get... "ooooo, earrings")

We are going historical home visiting, so I will come back with lots of pictures. And there's a strange happening in store for later in the week that I photographed the other day. (Something other than the corned beef eggrolls Ben made with our leftovers, that is.)

Thanks everyone so much for the birthday well wishes!!!!!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday, and I'm planning myself a special dinner of pork chops. The real celebration will take place tomorrow, because Ben is taking the whole day off of work, and we're going out to do fun stuff.

I'm feeling like my birthday gets spread out all through a number of days that way, and that's awesome! I had a little bit of birthday yesterday because a gift came from Alison, and I just couldn't resist opening it early. She sent me the awesomest book. It's a homemaking manual from 1916, and it's got the coolest pictures and lots of fun resources.

Yesterday evening Ben and I went to town and picked up the rest of the soil and manure for the new herb bed, went to the library, and went to church for a special presentation about mass. If I'm feeling really ambitious, I might mix up my soil and lay it down today, but it'd be a ton easier with Ben to help, considering that I'm pretty wimpy when it comes to upper body strength.

At the library, I found some interesting books that I've been wanting to read. They are both by the same historian, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and one is a biography of a New England midwife based on that lady's own diaries and the other interprets colonial social life through household objects, especially textiles and things used in their production. So, I might have to spend some time cozied up on the couch reading today as well.

The talk Father gave at church about mass was very interesting and it was pretty cool to learn about the origins of the different customs and language and objects we use. Here's the take-away fact that he used to open the evening. The word "mass" comes from the latin word "missio" which means "dismissal" like a sending out, I suppose, becuase that's how mass ends. The mass is dismassed with the admonition "go to love and serve the Lord". In the early church, the services were known for the dismissal, and missio caught on as the name of the service, and in common use became "mass".

Anyway, I'm planning a fairly quiet day today, with laundry and finishing up with cleaning my sewing room. And maybe watching Dancing with the Stars and reading with hot chocolate on the couch and eating my pork chop dinner. It should be lots of fun!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Plans for the Week

Oleander Flowers
Ben took this picture when we lived in AZ.

Well, I did get the kitchen rearranging pretty much finished. I still haven't decided on a definate plan for storing the lunch things and small food storage containers. But I did find a home for my cast iron pans other than the stove-top! And I made my glass fronted cabinets look a little cuter by storing the glass jars full of dried beans and oatmeal and such in them. Though now I can't decide if it looks weird to have glasses and food in the same cabinets. And just as I typed that, I thought well, I'll consolidate and make one a food cabinet and the other a dishes and glasses cabinet, instead of a little of each in each. Will it never end, this arranging!?

We had friends over on Saturday for Corned Beef and Cabbage in honor of St. Patricks Day. We also spent some time this weekend watching movies and just hanging out. But our big project was building an herb bed in the backyard. It's not quite finished yet, but I am planning to document it in it's own separate post. We're both so proud of it, we keep walking past the windows just to look out at it.

So, today I want to post some of my big plans for the week, and keep myself accountable. I know that if I say I'll do things outloud to someone or put them in writing (especially here on my blog where other people can read them), I'll be way more likely to get them finished.

At the end of the week, we'll be having out of town guests coming to stay for the weekend. Julie and Brian will be here on Friday evening. Hooray for her Spring Break!

Here are the bare minimum things I have to finish before they get here:
1. Make my sewing room a nice guest area
2. Plan meals and make sure I have the groceries in stock
3. Clean floors well
4. Vacuum couch very well
5. Take down St. Patrick's Day decorations

Here are things I'd like to have done this week
1. Finish bulding herb bed and do some planting in it
2. Complete the kitchen rearrange fully
3. Clean off the bill payer's desk in the living room and decide if it should really be there
4. Pick up chairs from another member of the homemaker's club so I'll have enough at the meeting I'm hosting
5. Paint the naked rocking chairs on the porch
6. Trim the bushes and plants in front of the house
7. Un-winter the chickens and get their coop moved to a green area of the yard
8. Till in the current chicken yard mess
9. Of course, keep up the regular work, like the laundry and the dishes

Here is my to-do list for today that I hope will help me accomplish these things:
1. My regular morning routine of six things:
A. Get Up, Get Clean, Get Dressed
B. Dishes and cleaning kitchen
C. Sifting litter and taking out trash
D. Listening to the bible readings for the day
E. Making the bed and cleaning the bedroom
F. Animal chores (fresh food and water for chickens and cats, collecting eggs, etc.)
2. Haul bricks and stack to finsh the last run on the herb border
3. Trim shrubs and trees in front landscaping
4. Start hardening off herb seedlings
5. Put away all sewing room things, fold up furniture and push to walls (this might be a two day process... I've been sewing without cleaning up behind myself again)
6. Rearrange top kitchen cabinets so the food is in one and the glasses and dishes are together in the other
7. Finish a load of laundry
8. Start gathering up St. Patrick's Day things
9. Buy topsoil for herb bed and a storage bin for the St. Patty's decorations

Well, that's generally what's going on with me this week. I would also like to start and finish the April tray cloth, but that's not a huge priorty compared to the rest. Though I should definately have time for it, I think.

Right now I'm going to have to get myself motivated to stop watching the robins out front building their nests and get up and get working on my own.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Organizing the Kitchen and St. Patrick's Embroidery


Here's one of my latest finished projects. I'm planning to make this into a tray cloth like the one for last month. I'd like to get it done today, but first I'll have to pick up some green ricrac to trim and finish the edges.

This morning Ben and I went over to the Our Lady of the Snows Shrine for confession. We've been talking about going more often, and figured that Lent would be a pretty good time to start. We actually didn't find the confessional in time for me to go in as well, because the priest followed him right out in order to get ready for mass, so Ben's the only absolved one for now. But they have confession twice a day at that church, plus our own church offers it every Saturday, so there's not much of an excuse for me not to go soon.

When we got back home, I cleaned up a lot of things in the garage, since it's trash day. Ben had done a ton of cleaning and organizing in there while I was away, but there were some more boxes to go through and decide about. I think that we might finally have everything sorted well enough that everything in the garage actually belongs in the garage. That seems like quite an accomplishment to me.

My big project for the day is to clean off some of the kitchen counters and to sort a few of the cabinets. I started yesterday and got about halfway through the job before I got really sick of it, so I've got to finish today. I definately can't leave it the way it is, because right now it's in that middle of a task everything looks even messier than it did before state. And we're having company over tomorrow, so I would like for it to get cleaned up before then.

I'm sort of at a loss when it comes to where to keep what things though. My bottom cabinets are just big spaces with shelves at the back, so I'd love pull out drawers. Until that happens though, I thinking about using a big basket to hold all the small lunch containers and things. If I did that, I would be able to pull them all out at once to choose what I need or put things away.

My main problem, I suppose, is that I'm pretty terrible at decorating, so I never know what looks okay or not out on shelves and everything. It's kind of frustrating for me to know whether to leave things out like they're decorative or try to put them away and forget about them in the back of a cupboard. Argh. I don't want to finish this job! :D

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Cute Way to Present Food Gifts

I delivered some Irish Soda Bread to a few of the neighbors, and I took advantage of one of my favorite ways to wrap/present breads. I like this idea because there's not a lot of extra packaging the recipient has to wonder what to do with, and it's pretty down right cheap. I had everything I needed on hand and didn't have to buy a special basket/box/container.

I wrapped the bread with plastic wrap, pulling all the corners and edges to the back and fastening with a small piece of tape.


Then I used scrap pieces of scrap booking paper to cut bands to wrap around the edges of the bread, and make little tags for the tops.

I think the neighbors enjoyed them almost for the cuteness factor as they did for the taste.

For more of my food gift ideas, you can check out my article on the subject:
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/461182/packaging_homemade_food_gifts.html?cat=24

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1223108/make_food_gifts_for_christmas.html?cat=22

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thanks to My Readers

Hi everyone! I'm back, and I just wanted to say thank you for all the comments and questions and very kind words I've been getting from you all lately. I know my blog's been boring for the last week, but I'm back now, and pretty happy to get back into the swing of things.

First up: pictures of the shower cake. As you can see, the mom-to-be overruled the vote and I went with the random sprinkling of flowers. But thank you all for voting! It was very appreciated.





The cakes are six inch (white), eight inch (chocolate), and ten inch (spice) leveled, filled with buttercream and stacked. They're on cardboard cake circles, and frosted smooth with buttercream. After the icing crusted, I put them on the cake plates from the stand, piped the bottom borders, piped leaves, and stuck on the royal icing flowers. The fondant shapes were made ahead of time, "glued" with royal icing to the lollipop sticks and then had curling ribbon tied around each stick below the shape. I stuck them into the tops of the cakes after I set them up on the stand. If there's anything else you'd like to know about how these went together that I didn't address, just ask.

Also, I hope everyone had a great St. Patrick's Day! I'm going to keep the celebration going through the week here, because we're having people over for the corned beef and cabbage on Saturday. Yesterday to celebrate I made Irish Soda Bread and we had nachos and guacamole for dinner. Not Irish, but at least green. For dessert I made a no-bake cheesecake we had in the pantry and I dyed the filling green with my wilton icing colors.

I know there's a lot of people who take the corned beef for St. Patrick's Day very seriously. When we lived in Phoenix, it fell on a Friday during lent and the bishop there gave us a dispensation to eat it! But I don't really like it, and I don't know if all my guests will, so I'm planning a baked potato bar as well for that day. Anyone have any suggestions for potato fillings that would help make that meal company worthy?

I'm excited to be home, and can't wait to get back into the habit of posting everyday. Things you can expect in the coming week or so include some finished embroidery, a few reconstruction sewing projects, pictures of plants coming up and getting green, baking (and some food packaging ideas for gift giving) and possibly some chicken pictures!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Corned Beef and Cabbage

I just wanted to share the link to last year's St. Patrick's Day meal. I shared my method for corned beef and cabbage step by step, including pictures of me looking either drunk or scuzzy from the flu. (I was flu-ish, not drunk.) I'm posting today because I thought a lot of people might have grocery day on the weekend, so I wanted to give you lots of time in case you want to try it!

Check it out: http://beppycat.blogspot.com/2008/03/recipe-tuesday-irish-corned-beef-and.html

I loves me some St. Patrick's Day!!

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Still Having Fun!

I've been having lots of fun all weekend hanging out with my parents and my brothers and sisters and nephews and niece.

My dad and I watched a really interesting show about the Star of Bethlehem the other night, and my niece and I spent a great time at Joann Fabrics looking at all the patterns and picking one for her First Communion dress. Adam and I went out to dinner tonight and went shopping, and I got to see my sister Donna win at volleyball.

I just wanted to check in while I had the access to the internet, since I probably won't have any access for the rest of the week. I have scheduled a post for later in the week linking to my corned beef and cabbage method so anyone who wants to try it will be able to be ready for St. Patrick's Day.

I start the cake decorating process tomorrow, with using royal icing to glue sticks to my dried fondant shapes, Wednesday is going to be a super big baking day with Adam, making muffins and breakfast sandwiches for his freezer stash, and including the cakes for the shower. Thursday we frost! And then, on Friday, I'll do all the decorating and piping. I just hope we can drive them all the way across MI to Ben's parents' house without any disasters and frosting smashing. I'm no Duff.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Fixing Dry Hands

My hands have been dry and flaking all winter. I remember the lotion, I exfoliate, and I pat, not rub with towels. But I still haven't really been able to fix them. I know that if you slather on the lotion before bed, and then put on cotton gloves, it can make a world of difference. The same works for feet and cotton socks, and I do that one all the time. Well, having never been in marching band, I didn't have easy access to white cotton gloves. So, here's a little project that I made the other day among some other mending and refashioning.
White cotton hand-saving mittens! I made these from an old white t-shirt that was too stretched out to wear. All I did was line my hand up with the bottom of the t-shirt, so I could use the ready made hem as the cuff of the mitten, trace around, cut out, and sew together. I made two pairs out of the bottom of the shirt, used the long sleeves to make fingerless mitten undersleeve type things, and still have the top half of the shirt to use, in case I want more cotton mittens.

I'm going to be headed out of town today to spend a week with my parents and my brothers and sisters and their families. I don't know if I'll be posting much. I might try posting using my phone, but sprint recently put a bunch of advertising junk on those posts, and they don't work so well. I do have lots of projects to show, though they might have to wait till I get back on the 16th. I hope everyone has a great week!

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Darn Socks!

The socks I made for Ben for Valentine's Day a year ago had gotten pretty worn. One of them had developed a full-fledged hole, and the other was just a few thin strands away from the same fate. Then, I saw this youtube video. And I set to work.

First I got out my darning egg. This belonged to my Great-Grandma Shukait, and my Grandma Trudell (her daughter and my mom's mom) gave it to me. I honestly have been keeping it for sentimental reasons. And because I love vintage needleworking tools. I didn't really think I'd get the chance to use it.

But use it I did! I used two different techniques to darn the two socks. The one on the right is the one that had the true hole, and I used the traditional darning technique shown in the video to fix it. The one on the left was the one with the badly worn patch, but since the yarns were pretty much still intact (just barely!), I decided to use duplicate stitch to reinforce it.
This is the traditionally darned one. I had to use blue yarn because I wanted to make sure to use wool, and that was the only spare wool I had. These socks took up exactly all I had of the original yarn. I wanted to use wool, because, with use, the strands will mat together, and for one cohesive fabric, drawing the weaving tighter.

I think that I like the duplicate stitch one better. It's definately neater looking when using a non-matching yarn, and seems like it's good and sturdy. I'm planning to keep an eye on his knit socks and try to catch them before a true hole forms, while there's still yarn to follow for the duplicate stitching. Or maybe I should just reinforce these sections from the start, so they're double stranded from the beginning!
So, darning socks is not that hard to do, and you can definately use it to fix holes in store bought socks as well. One tip is to use a light bulb or any wooden ball as the base if you do not have a darning mushroom or egg.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Best Laid Plans

One more fun picture: The Salgats circa 1986 around the time of Wayne's high school graduation. I'm thinking of getting my hair cut like that again. (I'm the bowl cut/gap toothed one)
Yesterday I did a lot more work ahead stuff for the cake and cut a ton of fondant decorations to make the toppers. That took the morning, but other than that, sad to say, I didn't get much else done except some knitting. I watched Places in the Heart, which really explained those childhood memories of having to get the cotton in to keep from losing our house. I didn't think that really happened....
I made a batch of laundry detergent (for now, I use Fels Naptha for the bar soap, but I'd like to learn to make my own bar soap this summer and use that instead) this morning, since I used the last of it yesterday and I didn't want to leave Ben without any. I'm leaving on Friday and I won't be back for ten days, so I've got lots of organizing and packing to do before then. I've got some sewing projects that I want to finish today as well. Mostly just some alterations and mending, but I'm also planning a bigger project involving a jumper and a shirt becoming a dress.
I want to make a big batch of muffins for breakfasts the rest of the week and for Ben to have while I'm out of town. I have a lot of pumpkin puree in the freezer still, so I'm going to experiment with my applesauce muffin recipe and see if I can just substitute pumpkin in it for the applesauce. We'll see how it goes.
We've been doing lots of garden planning, and Ben's hoping that he'll be able to get some ground ready for greens and lettuces and onions soon. I guess that's a pretty important lesson for us to remember in the fall: make sure to leave the lettuce beds ready when we put the garden to bed.
It's supposed to get warmer this week, which is good because the chicken coop really needs mucking out. I haven't worried about it too much, because it's so cold, it all stays frozen, but it's about a week or two past due, so I've got to be sure to do that before I go. Luckily, Ben bought himself a wheelbarrow on his birthday with some gift cards from his family, so now the coop mucking will be a fraction of the trouble it has been in the past.
I'd better get sewing, since finishing those projects was the main thing on my to do list today. I've been telling Ben my main goals in the morning, to hold myself a bit more accountable, so I want to be finished when he comes home to show off my sewing. Plus, it was his idea to fix the shirt in question by making a dress, so we'll see how that turns out.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Some Old Family Photos

Today I'm sharing some different family photos that I have stored on my computer. I scanned and reprinted them for my dad, but decided that I'd really like to display more photos around the house, so I was sorting through them to have some printed for myself to frame.

This is my Grandpa Salgat. He passed away before I was born, so I never met him. He's my dad's dad, and I know he was quiet and knew a ton about gardening. My mom told me that he liked to tease my Grandma Salgat a lot. He farmed for a living and had four children, three boys and one girl.

This is my Grandpa Trudell. I'm jealous of his hair. I think he's only about twelve in this picture, but is it any wonder Grandma fell for him just a few years later? Grandpa Trudell passed away about 5 years ago. He was an excellent outdoorsman, he loved to hunt and to fish. He was an ice fisher, and I remember going to their house one day after school, and seeing all his money and wallet on the porch held down by rocks, because he'd fallen through that day and had to put them out to dry. He had high standards about using your head and thinking things through and doing things well and correctly.
These are my dad and my mom when they were in grade school. Sometimes, it's creepy for me to see pictures of my mom when she was young because it's sort of like it could be a picture of me, but isn't. See how my dad has the mischief in him? He still does. He likes to tease my mom a lot too.
Here is me when I'm four or so. Dad always always used to leave his boots on the porch to dry. I remember that from all my growing up years. But I don't remember this picture being taken. I'm loving that trench coat though. They tell me this wasn't staged, but that I put my shoes there myself to be like dad. See my hands? I still do that all the time, and am always getting caught in pictures like that. I think some of our wedding photos have me holding my hands like that.
This is my cute little brother who just turned 25 last week. He's really funny and likes to make fun of me a lot. He's also artistic and deep, but wouldn't want you to know it when you first meet him. He and I have similar senses of humor and connect about cooking and making things and writing, but don't really have a lot in common when it comes to "cool" things, like music or parties or social settings, where he far surpasses me.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Sausage Gravy

Here it is, what everyone has been waiting for:
Action Photos of me making Sausage Gravy!

Start by crumbling pork sausage in your skillet and cooking it till no pink remains. Spoon it out, pour out all the fat and then return about three-four tablespoons of fat to the pan.
The sausage we bought happened to be pretty lean, so I added two tablespoons of butter to the pan after removing the sausage.
Sprinkle in about three tablespoons of flour and start whisking....
And whisking. When the flour has cooked and browned, your "roux" (fancy french word for fat/flour thickening paste) is ready.
Start pouring in a cup or so of milk a bit at a time, whisking all the while to incorporate the lumps and such.
Keep pouring and whisking, practicing a little faith, because it'll look like you messed it up at this point, but if you just keep going, you'll get gravy.

Bring it to a bubble, because flour won't reach it's full thickening power until you boil it. You can judge the consistency yourself and add a bit a milk at a time till it's as loose as you like. Bear two things in mind: 1. You can always make it thinner, but if you get it way too thin, it's difficult to thicken back up. And 2. It will thicken slightly after it's off the burner and has cooled a bit, so make it a tad looser than you'd think.

Add the gravy to the sausage (or the sausage to the gravy) and mix it all up.

Serve this over split open biscuits or on toast or over eggs. The leftovers make great "sauce" on Breakfast Pizza. And Enjoy!

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