Monday, January 31, 2011

Updates: One Small Change, The Anyway Project, FNSI

It has been quite a while since I updated my progress on these challenges. Here's how life has been going.....

One Small Change: (link here and here)
  • My January change was for going without electricity on Tuesday nights, which I actually enjoyed on three evenings out of the four this month. I was able to have dinner without cooking and read for a while using only solar light. I don't think I'll keep this as a regular habit until daylight lengthens later this spring, but I will be doing it again.
  • All my other changes have become ingrained habit, especially the cold-brewed coffee. My coffeemaker is still packed away :) (You can check the posts with my many changes by choosing the OneSmallChange label or "tag".)
  • I haven't picked a "change" for February, but I'll be reading everyone else's choices to see if one strikes me.

The Anyway Project: (link here and here)
  • I buttoned up the condo as well as I could and I'm following my "budget".
  • My little pantry is working extremely well.
  • Two years ago I set up a shopfront in etsy and I'm getting very close to opening. My love of all things vintage had gotten the best of me and I need to find happy homes for all my treasures.
  • I've started back at the gym since it's too cold to be on the bikepath ;)
  • I've been getting to know a few of my neighbors better. Funny how many interesting conversations start while shoveling and cleaning snow off cars! I've made a new friend who offered to bring in my mail while I was away, for which I surprised her with a small gift of syrup from up north :)

Friday Night Sew In: (link here and here)
  • I loved it and can't wait for February's sign-up! It was a chance to sit down and re-design my quilt top, something I had been putting off. Now I'm cutting pieces to start the applique work.

This isn't the life I had imagined I'd be living when I moved back to the city. It's a much better one.

happiness delivery

Before I even begin to tell all about my trip, let me show you the fun that appeared in my mailbox today. Our friend Mug has an shop called Parading Chicks where our indie artist presents her line of southern belles, each one a unique character :)

I couldn't resist these red galoshes splasing through puddles as they hurry on their way. They will be on my desk at work to bring some fun to my hectic workday. I almost can't wait to go to work tomorrow! (Did I say that???)

Stop by Parading Chicks to catch up with Mug and the gals, and maybe swoop on over to her etsy shop for a look see.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

souvenirs, of the tasty kind

One of the precious treasures I brought back from visiting family was this box of home canned summer goodness, which was the first thing I carried into the house upon my return this afternoon. It holds a jar of apple chutney, two of plum jam, and one of canned plums in a very light syrup. All of these were from trees on my oldest son's property. We had some plums with vanilla ice cream last night and it was Oh, So Good! In the middle of winter, how wonderful it is to have treats from your harvest.

To the bottom of each jar, every spoonful will bring treasured memories.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011


My bags are packed, the car gas tank has been filled, and the battery in my camera is fully charged. I may be on the road in the wee hours of the morning depending on the weather. (I'm trying to go before the next snowstorm.) For the rest of the week I''ll be visiting family and friends in northern VT. This trip is so looonnng overdue. I've been missing all my northern family, and need to hug my grandchildren :) I also plan to stop at some of my favorite secondhand and thrift shops. Spring will be here before we're ready and I've got some re-style ideas that I want to stich up for office and casual wear.

These are the gifts of homemade vanilla which I started last Autumn and will be bringing to family this week. I left one vanilla bean in each jar so the recipients can use it however they choose.

It smells wonderful!!!

There are also two baggies of homemade dog biscuits that I'll deliver to my furry, four-legged friends.

I'll try to post some photos while I'm there, but just in case...

Have a Wonderful Week!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How many

I'm always curious about the vintage aprons that I've found over the years. I wonder how many fried chicken dinners were cooked while they were being worn.... many meatloafs.....

....and birthday cakes.... many handkerchiefs were tucked into those pockets, and wiped dirt off little faces.... many times were hands wiped on it before holding a shining report card.... many hugs were given....

...and received :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday Night Sew-In

It was a good night to stay in and do craftwork, the temperature was *cold* and dropped to *shiver* by the time I went to sleep. This morning I awoke to *brrrrrr*.

My current project is a quilt made from vintage housedresses and aprons from the 40's and 50's. The pieces I have gathered are not in usable condition as clothing, but have sections that can be used as fabric. The concept of this quilt is to honor the women who maintained the household and baked the daily bread while their spouses toiled outside the home to be the breadwinners. From the clean, tidy houses they kept, to the starched shirts and the crocheted doilies, they created beauty. Therefore, let their legacy continue with something pretty made from their everyday apparel, the clothing that never left the house or backyard.

Before I even started on the material, I made a few changes to the design I had made for the quilt. I decided to make it slightly larger, to be used as a chill chaser on winter evenings instead of the wall hanging as was originally intended.

I washed, dried, and ironed the background material. But when I cut out the pieces, I found that I was one panel short. I've been told that before, but this time it was for real ;)

I hadn't cut a large enough piece of material from the bolt. Yes, my stash includes a bolt of bleached muslin, a indulgence I bought for myself some time ago. So I cut off another slice which will be washed today.

I folded the center panel in half both across the width and height and "pressed" the fold with my fingernail to find the centerpoint. I slipped my drafted pattern in place and lightly traced the design onto the muslin. The other sections were similarly marked, and now I have the placement marked for the floral pieces, which will be cut from the clothing.

So on my first Friday night Sew-In I never even picked up a needle. Tomorrow's goal is to have a whole stack of fabric cut outs which will be the flowers for the center medallion. Then comes the needle and thread....

(Corner panel with lightly drawn bouquet and bow)

Hundreds (yes, really!) of folks were crafting/stitching last night. Stop by Heidi's blog to link to their crafty Friday night escapades!

.....and have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Did you see it?

The bright, full moon was easing down past the horizon early this morning.

My photographic skills (or lack of!) don't do justice to the beauty that I saw.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Scheduling time

Isn't it ironic that we now have to "schedule" time for relaxing or "pencil in" a lunch date? I smiled when I stumbled onto Heidi's blog, realizing that she came up with a good solution to (1) getting unfinished projects done and (2) giving crafters a platform to showcase their wares. On a given Friday night each month, Heidi holds a "Sew-in". Crafty bloggers have permission to devote the evening to their passion (sewing passion, that is!), and post about it the next day.

I had been feeling like something was missing from my life and wouldn't you know, I think it was my sewing. I've signed up for this next round (along with 95 other folks, as of this moment), and I'm feeling better already ;)

So two nights from now I'll be working on a quilt top that I had drafted last Autumn. This is the first of a set to be made from vintage aprons and housedresses. I'll be posting a show-and-tell with photos of my progress on Saturday, so be sure to stop by this weekend.

Please stop by Handmade by Heidi, to check out the other participants. With so many in the group, there's plenty of inspiration!

Want to get out your fabric scraps and join the party?! How about getting a head start on those handmade Christmas gifts now and have a stress-free holiday this year?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Weather troubles Tuesday

All the weather predictions were for a "mixed bag" of weather for today, and we're still on pins and needles as to what will ultimately transpire. We've had some light snow but it's changing to sleet and freezing rain sooner than expected causing multiple spinouts this morning. My lunch is packed and I'll be leaving for work soon, where everyone's thoughts will be on the weather outside, naturally ;) The temps will be warming as the day goes on, however the storm drains are nowhere to be seen. They're still covered by mountains of frozen snow from the last storm. I'm bringing rainboots in the car.....just in case.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It was a quiet weekend

This weekend was meant to follow its own course of action, with as few obligations as possible. And by golly, it was a success. My car went in the shop for an alignment and a quick check before an upcoming drive heading North. Thankfully, the service technicians found nothing major to be repaired or replaced, so my checkbook is still intact :)

My mother wanted to make a batch of cookies for me to take to family on that trip, so we baked up those wonderful Italian cookies with the anisette icing. She kept a few, I gave some to a neighbor, and there's a bunch securely packaged and sitting in the bottom of my fridge (where I won't start nibbling on them ;)

Other than that, I've got a clean house, clean clothes, and some prepared simple meals. I was able to catch up with friends via phone, and found some interesting episodes to watch on the History channel online.

I don't have to rush around for groceries since I'm enjoying my little kitchen pantry. By keeping basic supplies on hand and packaged leftovers in the freezer, I stop at the store less frequently. And when I do stop to get fresh produce and milk, I skip the entire middle section of the store. That's an added bonus.

I hope you were all able to enjoy a slower and relaxing weekend! You deserve it!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

kinda off-grid Tuesday evening

With all the weather commotion, I forgot to let you know how Tuesday night transpired without lights. We all know that manuvering aroung your home in the dark is easy if you're trying not to wake the children (like on Christmas eve) or for a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. So when I arrived home from work on Tuesday I set my things where they belonged, coat and gloves, shoes, purse, lunchbag. Then I set about to get some dinner and settle in for the evening.

I don't want this to turn into a reason NOT to go home after work, so I'll make sure there's a prepared meal waiting for me. This week I had a salad of quinoa and veggies, made the day before. Dinner was enjoyed over candle light, as was dish washing. Then I took a large glass of water to the living room and sat in the recliner with a good book. I was able to read for an hour before my eyes got sleepy.

I did my arm stretches and a little yoga and retired to a very peaceful sleep :)

It was a nice way to spend the evening. I think I'd especially enjoy nights like this towards the latter part of spring when the sun goes down a little later. I'll definitely be trying this again next week.

Note: I've got two hand-crank flashlights (one at home and one in the car), and I'm pretty sure I'll be splurging on a hand-crank radio next. I do listen to the local news/weather/traffic every morning. Buying one would be like buying insurance. It's a good thing to have. Plus, I would be listening to music on these Tuesday evenings.

There are lots of clever folks with great ideas for saving energy and resources over at One Small Change. Take a look and see if there's possibly a change that inspires you, too!

Speaking of change, it's Friday and almost time for the weekend! I hope yours is wonderful :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nothin' much planned

The plow truck came by before noon to clear the driveway at the condominium complex. That's when you meet all your neighbors :) It's a rule that when the plow comes by after a snowstorm, you have to move your vehicle so he can clear the lot (thank goodness!) So we chat and laugh while we help each other clear the snow from our vehicles, and you get to learn a little more about the folks you wave "hello" to all year 'round. It took almost two hours to get our section cleared, and I really felt sorry for the plow driver. There really was no place to push all that snow. He did a great job and I'm sure he's still out there, somewhere, clearing more.

After all the *fun* I took a walk over to the main road. (A neighbor told me that Dunkin' Donuts was open.) My summertime walk of 25 minutes took over an hour, mostly because of the unplowed roads, but also because I chatted with every person who was out shovelling their driveway. Might as well be cheerful and friendly! After all, these folks are going to be sore tonight.

This is pretty much what my neighborhood looks like today. On dry days this is a two+ lane road, with room for parked cars on both sides of the street. Today it can accomodate only one car at a time. Perfect reason not be driving, right? ;)

My last task of the day was to get some clean snow from out the back door to make.....


(I haven't made it in years, and just couldn't resist.)

And only two more days until the weekend! Woohoo! I hope you've all had a wonderful day and that you all sleep well tonight :)

Snowy Wednesday

It is a complete yardstick ;)

I wouldn't try to fool you!

I cleared the snow away from the exhaust before I started my car.

For living in a very densely populated area, snow seems to turn down the volume on sound. It was so pleasantly quiet outside!

More to come later....I just came in to dry off and have a cuppa tea :)
P.S. It sounds like there's going to be a lot of good eating going on in N.E. kitchens today! So many great cooks are whipping up hearty meals. What a perfect day for it. Mmmmm.....

Snowed in

It takes a LOT of snow for work to be cancelled.

Well, we got a lot of snow overnight. Depending on what station you listen to, we've got anywhere from 12 - 20 inches of snow.

Aren't those snowflake clusters on the window interesting? They're just clinging on where they landed from the blowing winds.

It's about time to get bundled up and clear off my car. If the wind lets up, I'll take a walk around the neighborhood.
Stay warm!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

As fresh as the newfallen....

It sure is pretty!

(Photos taken Saturday morning.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The unseen side

Picture, if you will, an idyllic vision of beautiful New England snow covered farms with smoke wafting from farmhouse chimneys. Farm animals with a blanket of fresh snow covering their backs. Icy streams whose banks are pure white mounds of snow. Yes, it really does exist.

Okay, shake that off and read what happened in the snowstorm that hit southwestern Connecticut yesterday. The winter weather caused heavy tallies for collisions, including a tractor trailer that slid into two firetrucks, totalling them. Unfortunately, all the conditions were right for a major problem; temps hovering around freezing, light snow coming down early during the storm creating icy roads, then heavy snow building up on that ice. And these are New England drivers who know how to drive in this stuff. Yes, the town and state trucks were out early, salting the roads. I had no problem getting to work. But by the time work let out on Friday afternoon, it was a mess. One co-worker who left early called back in to tell us that Route 8 was a complete parking lot. They had been sitting there for the past hour. Luckily, I live very close to work and the traffic going in my direction was somewhat better. My ten minute trip only took 30 minutes.

Okay, if it's so bad, why am I here? I was born in New England. I've lived through the good and the bad. It's part of me, and I couldn't see myself anywhere else. Just as anyone from the south or the midwest or the west coast loves where they are. That's what makes us who we are. It's nice to visit other locales but there's no place like home, right? Now, I think I'll get back to that vision of the small farm on the side of that icy stream.....

And if you haven't tried this,, are you missing something delicious! I premixed the ingredients last night and baked it this morning. Topped with a spoonful of brown sugar, it is heavenly. (You know I don't toss around strong adjectives loosely;)

Take a run over to Pattycake's blog for the full recipe. It's easy and oh-so-good!

Have a great weekend! I'm heading out to work.....after another helping of oatmeal.....

One Small Change, renewed

I've been trying to find a change that I could really get into, something challenging. I'm still doing all those little changes that I started since last January (along with some other eco-friendly habits that I already had before that), and there are a few options for changes that are really not my preference (or I'm just not ready to try.) But, while reading the comments on the welcoming January 2011 post of Hip Mountain Mama's One Small Change blog, I was immediately taken by the proposed plan of a writer who signed in as "House in the Trees." Their change was to turn lights out at sundown one day a week. Now THAT is a challenge I could take on!

Weeknights might be difficult since it's already dark before I leave work, but who's to say I couldn't unlock my door and have dinner by candlelight? (Nothing that would need to be cooked. Cheese and crackers, maybe?) This also means no computer, so I'll have to catch all the news on the car radio on my way home from work. A weekend night would work if I program my thinking so that there is no slacking about switching off the electric lights when the sun goes down. But I think that a utility-free weeknight would be more appreciated; stress-less, so to speak.

So I plan to begin this practice next Tuesday. It won't be any more than a drop in the bucket, as far as electricity goes, but it could be interesting!

Take a look over at the One Small Change website, to see what other folks are doing to reduce their impact on the Earth. Maybe you'd like to try a small change for yourself? Joiners welcomed!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

One potato, two potato

It's getting around long passed time to have this laptop cleaned up and have the invisible gunk that's collected inside whisked away. The slow buffering, buffering, .... buffering, and waiting for pages to load aren't fun when you can wash up the dinner dishes faster than the new tabbed page opens. Which prompted me to make tonight's dinner from memory guess, since I couldn't get to the recipe on the internet.

The other day I happened across a recipe on the Project Foodie website for delicious sweet potato oven-baked fries. An excellent happenstance because there were two sweet potatoes in the vegetable bin in the fridge :)

I knew that I was supposed to slice them into small fry-like sticks and toss them with olive oil, but I couldn't remember what seasonings were recommended. I decided to go with freshly cracked pepper and kosher salt, a failsafe combo. But what oven temp? and for how long?

I set it for 400 degrees and turned the fries after 15 minutes, then kept an eye on them until they looked good. Another light sprinkling with salt and they didn't last long!

Only after the dishes were done and the recipe finally appeared on the screen (did you think I was kidding?), did I see that I missed out on an interesting seasoning combination. I do believe I'll be buying more sweets at the grocery store this week to try some new flavor combos ;)

You may have been oven-frying sweets long before me. Sometimes I'm a little behind the times. But if you haven't tried this, I would definitely recommend it.

P.S. Half of today's fries will be packed as a side dish with tomorrow's lunch. Now that's something to look forward to :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Steppin' out

Let me introduce two of my favorite "finds" from last fall. First, a sweet pair of vintage Red Cross Shoes from around the late 1950's.

This was only the second time I've been able to score vintage shoes that actually fit! Usually I will stumble across a nice older pair in great condition about two sizes too small. But these dressy pumps actually carried me to two Christmas parties, lasting the entire night without causing distressed toes :)

The heels were just high enough to be formal, but not so high as to be uncomfortable. My second pair is a grey set from the sixties that need some attention before I wear them out (slight scuffing of the finish), and will be better suited as shoes for the office. I especially like them with slacks. I'll be taking them to the cobbler later this month to ask for advice on repairing the scuffs.

Pricing was great on both these, at just a few dollars each.

They'll be staying home for the winter, what with wet weather, slush, and salt on the pavement. But come spring, they'll be out and about. So, if you notice someone strolling down the street, sidestepping puddles....take a look at her shoes ;)

Happy Thursday, folks. I hope you're having a great day!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, new recipes

I had to start off the year with something new in the kitchen, so I went through a pile (really) of recipes and found this basic cracker on Towards Sustainability. Since crackers are so easy and rewarding, I got out the mixing bowl.

Only four ingredients!

The dough turned out very soft and silky even though it first appeared sticky.

A few minutes later the first two trays were in the oven. The aluminum foil lining the tray has been used before and will be reused again and again ;)

...for a total of five trays. Some plain, some with poppy seeds, and (my favorites) with kosher salt. These are a very plain (mild) cracker that will go very nicely with a spiced up dip or hummus. Definitely one to make again! I see a few other recipes on Julie's blog that I would love to try soon.

While I'm not going to promise to try a new recipe each week, I will be doing A LOT of experimenting in the kitchen again this year ;)

(Update, both canine recipients of the Homemade Dog Biscuits thoroughly enjoyed their Christmas gifts. I'll be bringing another batch and the printed recipe to their owners when I visit later this month.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bringing it back

One Achilles' heel in the quest to reduce plastic use is the dilemma of how to keep cheese fresh without wrapping it in a piece of that plastic roll we all keep in the kitchen cabinet, and the associated problem of how it still dries out when wrapped in said petroleum-derived sheet. This was discussed many times on many blogs over the summer and one recurring answer was the glass cheese bell. Not many of us still have that bridal shower gift from the seventies, gone the way of fondue pots and covered cake carriers. But by the response of bloggers whose expertise I value, I decided to give it a try. This is a fairly easy item to obtain at secondhand stores so the cost for my research should be minimal.

It only took three visits to find one, although the wooden base that it sat on was not ideal so I replaced it with a dish from my kitchen which fit perfectly. I then bought an inexpensive chunk of cheddar, unwrapped it, and waited. Three weeks later the cheese, some of which was enjoyed from time to time, was just as fresh as the day I set it on the plate. No dried out edges, no spots that needed trimming. After six months and three blocks of cheese I can happily say that this works (although I haven't tried this with anything softer than a blue variety.) Now I gladly shuffle things around in the fridge to keep a space handy for the cheese bell. It doesn't save much plastic but it sure does save the cheese.

Of course, our mothers and grandmothers knew this all about this. (You can find vintage cheese dishes for sale over the internet.) We just keep on having to re-learn that the some of the old ways were best ;)

Try something new old, and have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Review, renew, restart

I took a quick walk down Memory Lane last week. It seems that last year was busier than I had remembered. Along with joining the One Small Change challenge, the Self-Stitched September challenge, and starting to follow the Anyway Project, I finished painting the rooms of my condo, I de-cluttered every nook and cranny, re-styled much of my food choices, made most of my food from scratch (including crackers and granola), frequented the farmers market weekly, crafted holiday gifts, switched from brand name detergents to a borax and washing soda mix, kicked out the TV, read a few good books, found 3 new-to-me bike paths (including one that is fairly close by), paid off a chunk of my car loan, took a few road trips, polished up my canning skills after so many years of neglect, stitched up some quilt tops, and had a fine doctor work on my shoulder. And that’s the short list :)

Funny thing is that I didn’t do a lot that I had planned. But I guess that’s normal. It’s why so many folks neglect their New Year resolutions.

This year I’m not making any resolutions, per say. I’m going to go about life as I normally would, being curious and adventurous, wanting to learn all that I can. And that includes learning how to clean up some of the gunk that builds up inside this computer. It gets a bit sluggish, even with up to date internet security protections. (I readily admit that I surf many a food and/or news blog.) I do have a wonderful relative who gets this laptop spiffy every 12 months or so, and I feel a bit foolish that I haven’t done much more than delete history, cookies, or defrag every now and then. It’s like that clean feeling after a visit to the dentist. It’s so much nicer than what a regular toothbrush and floss can do.

I’ll be keeping up with the folks at One Small Change, and I’m anxious to see what progresses on the Anyway Project. I’m working on a financial “budget”, to see if I can squirrel away a few more pennies. If you’ve been reading here for long, you know that I’ve cut most of my utilities down to the bare bones. It looks like it will be an interesting year.

With my visit on Memory Lane I found that I’m not where I expected to be by now, but I’m not in such a bad place, after all. Quoting Captain Jack Sparrow; “Bring me that horizon…”