Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reuse Tip

We just got some new twin sheets for our toddler son's bed (who is potty training - woo!). If you've ever bought linens of any kind, you know they usually come in those heavy duty, clear plastic bags with zippers. I've always hated throwing those away. I mean, a bag with a zipper? How useful!
Following my creative instincts, I've found a few ways to reuse those nifty bags. Here are some of those ideas:

*Storing toiletries for a trip. If they leak, who cares? The bag was free! Not to mention, the bag is washable.

*Random bottles. We have a myriad of cold remedies, medicine bottles, cough drops, etc. So, I have one of these zipper bag wonders designated as "the medicine bag". It keeps all the little bottles and stuff together in one place. And since it's see through I can see what we have and don't have. You could do the same with make-up, nail polishes, or vitamins, etc.

*Office organizer. Keep your pencils, pens in order. Or any other kind of office supplies. Use your imagination!

I'm going to go through all our photos soon to dejunk and organize. I've been considering using those zippy bags to organize photos, but I'm sure the plastic off-gasses, so I don't know if that's a very good idea. Hmm...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring? Is That You?

Today is in the 60s. This weekend it's supposed to be in the 70s! Are you really here, Spring? Really? Or are you just teasing us? Well, my neighbor's crocuses are blooming and her tulips and daffodils are up. The trees even have fuzzy buds. Not to mention I dried my first load of laundry for the season on my drying racks yesterday! Hooray! So, Spring must be at least around the corner. Because drying laundry outside is always a good sign. It felt so good to put those clothes out to dry in the sun - especially since electricity is a gagillion times more expensive here in the east than it was out in Utah. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little. But my dryer is taking twice as long to dry as it used to which is twice the electricity too. Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit for a warm, sunny day. Thank you, Spring!

Another little accomplishment - I made my first big batch of beans from scratch. Ever. This is a huge, huge step for me, because making my own beans has really intimidated me. Not sure why. It was just one of those elusive things that I always thought I might learn to do but was never that motivated to try. Until I found a great tutorial on making them. I'll post about that later. Meanwhile, I gotta go check my beans. I think they're almost done! Then I'm making me a batch of cornbread. MmmmMM! There's nothing in this world I like better than cornbread.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Makin' It From Scratch #7 - "Hamburger Helper" & Lard

I love the Chickens In the Road blog by Suzanne McMinn! She has such amazing ideas! Now, I'm not a huge fan of Hamburger Helper, but when I found out you could make it from scratch, I was amazed. (Perhaps I'm easily impressed?) Anyway, I had to share this in my little Makin' It From Scratch series. I've tried a few of the versions, and I must say that when you're in a hurry or can't think of anything to make for dinner, this stuff is a lifesaver! The best thing is that you can make the different versions up in advance for extra speediness later. Give it a try!

Go HERE for homemade "hamburger helper".

And I just found this other post by Suzanne that talks about rendering lard and how to do it in your crock pot. Even though I worked at an historical village, talked about rendering fat, pig slaughtering and sausage making, I was always grossed out by the idea of lard. (Which was rather silly of me. But I did think the sausage making with sheep intestine casings was fun... go figure.) This blog post really opened my eyes and I am seriously thinking of rendering my own lard!

I really wish I had grown up on a farm with animal slaughtering being apart of every day life - providing our own food. Then maybe I wouldn't be so scared by the thought of it. My whole life I've been separated from the source of the food I eat. I'm used to seeing the end product in a can, box, or encased in plastic. I really don't think that is any way to go through your life.

The historical village I worked at (Conner Prairie) actually has pig slaughtering days in the fall where the public can go and see the slaughtering done. I don't know of many places where you can take a vacation to see a pig slaughtered. They do everything right there - draining the blood, butchering the pig, rendering the lard, making the sausage, and even smoking the pork in the smokehouse. How educational! I love how there are still opportunities for people to get back to their agricultural roots. And that is what I'm trying to do - one tiny step at a time. Lard rendering - here I come!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Bug

The little white house in Dayton

I don't know about you, but when I feel spring coming all sorts of deeply embedded instincts hit me. I feel a huge urge to dig in the dirt, traipse through the woods breathing deeply and to spend as much time outside as possible - rain or shine. Of course, all of this is ideal on ones own property, which, at the moment, we do not have. Having just graduated from college and started the big job, we're just beginning the journey of saving for our first home.

The bug to buy said home really hit me hard today. Since we're new to Maryland we're still looking around for towns where we'd really like to set down roots. Currently we live in a nice rental, but it's a bit too close to the big city for me. This morning we researched houses for rent in places we are interested in. And then for a fun weekend excursion we packed the kids in the car and drove around to see those places.

The first stop was a little town called Dayton. And I immediately fell in love. It's a little off the beaten track - enough to feel like you're in the country but where stores and restaurants aren't unreasonably far away. It's also next to the same highway that shoots my husband directly to his work. The major bonus for this little town is that there is tons of space between houses (a big deal to me), with corn fields, forests and lawns sprawling into and out of one another. It was beautiful!

We checked out this simple, 3 bedroom white 1940s house on a half acre, a little garage, another outbuilding, and plenty of lawn to play in. What was even cooler was that next door the neighbors had a sign that said "Local Honey"! Yes! My husband and I have pretty modest tastes, so this house was perfect! Unfortunately, we can't seriously be looking for anywhere else to rent right now as our current rental contract doesn't end for a few more months. Not to mention this particular house had 5 people interested in it already.

But now it's too late. I'm in love with Dayton and am determined to live somewhere around there. Just looking at that house I could already see my garden and chicken coop (despite the downpour we were having at the time), hanging out on that neighbors' porch talking shop about honey and bees and taking a walk down the road with my kids. Since it would take nothing short of a miracle to get into that little white house, my husband and I started talking about buying. Like I said, we're not even close to considering buying a house, but it's definitely lit the fire under us to get going on that process. I can't wait! I can already feel my fingers in the warm dirt, the sun on my back, and the laugh of our children as they run around the yard... Aaaah, a piece of dirt to call our own!

Friday, March 12, 2010

My New Friend

It's scratched, dented, with pieces of wood broken off, but it's got a new set of strings and it's all mine!

Homemade Ingredients

Just had to post this link from The Pioneer Woman blog about making your own homemade ingredients, especially for when you're in a pinch. Check it out!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Baby, Bread & Dulcimer

Well, the baby is here! She came two weeks ago and is as healthy and beautiful as can be.

My step-mom came out to spend a week and spoiled us rotten with plenty of homemade bread and clean dishes. I must say there's nothing like homemade bread and butter. I had given in and started buying store-bought bread again. Well, I had to be realistic. No stand mixer, 9 months pregnant and standing on my feet to knead a lump of dough? It wasn't going to happen. But now that my step-mom has supplied us with the fresh stuff, we've barely touched the store stuff. I might have to make a huge batch of bread pudding or something. Or I can just let the loaves languish in the freezer...

To check something exciting off my list of goals - I inherited an inexpensive dulcimer from my step-mom and while she was here she taught me the basics on how to play it and to read tabulature. (I took one look at the book and was completely lost as my background is in playing the piano and clarinet.) I have wanted to play the dulcimer since I was a teenager, so this is a big moment for me. It's a simple little instrument, but there's nothing so exciting as making your own music! Now I need to find me a pitch pipe, a pick, and a good book full of old-time mountain dulcimer songs. Any suggestions?
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