Friday, December 31, 2010

The Storm Cellar

I've finally got stuff under my "The Storm Cellar" tab up at the top of the page. I'll be adding to is as I find things, but it's a start. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book to Recommend: Confederates in the Attic

I did an independent study on museums and museum work when I was in college. Strangely, one of the books my professor required me to read was Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. What did that have to do with museums? It's a book about the author's journey to discover the exploding interest and allure of the American Civil War, why people are obsessed with reenacting it and why it's being kept alive. This book was one of the most fascinating books I'd read in a long time. It might have helped that I, myself, was a Civil War reenactor for about 9 years.

I did finally get why my professor required me to read this book. The interesting thing about homesteading is that a lot of the skills associated with it are ones that have been handed down for generations. These skills are an important part of our culture and heritage and reenacting our history is just one way that people help keep it fresh, real, and poignant in our minds. Museums, whether living history or not, seek to accomplish that very thing - to bring history alive for all of us and help us relate to the people who went before us and to remember and value what they did.

Confederates in the Attic helps us discover what those Civil War soldiers did for us and why a long gone war still affects people today.

Rating: I'd rate this book a PG-13 for language, suggestive language, and some violence.

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Tabs

You may have noticed my new (or not so new) tabs up near the top of the page. I've recently just updated the "The Old Cookstove" tab. There is now a complete list of links to all the recipes I've posted here on Knotty Oak Homestead. Hopefully, this will make it easier for all of you (and for me) to find the recipes you want.

Also, check out the "Not So Dusty Tomes" tab for a list of nifty books, some with links. I'm hoping to get some more links up for that soon.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snappy Gingersnaps

I was feeling sad that I had hardly done any Christmas cookie baking this season, so the other day I whipped out my favorite Gingersnap recipe and made some. These are so tasty and zingy and make a great pair with some creamy egg nog.

Ginger Snaps

Preheat oven to 350º F.

¾ cups shortening
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg

Cream together. In a separate bowl combine:

1 ¾ cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 to 3 tsp. ground ginger (depending on how spicy you like it!)

Mix well, then add to the molasses mixture, mixing with an electric mixer until the batter is well combined. Roll the cookie dough into walnut-sized balls using your hands. Put a ½ cup of sugar in a bowl and roll the dough balls in the sugar until coated well. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten the balls slightly with your fingers. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The longer the time, the “snappier” they’ll be!

P.S. A funny story about making these cookies. It was Christmas Eve. I wasn't going anywhere. But I didn't have any plain shortening for making the gingersnaps. I only had my heavily bacon-scented lard sitting in the fridge that I had rendered myself. (Alas, I had let it cook far too long!) It was the only thing I had and I didn't want to use up my butter while I had the lard, so the lard went into the bowl with the sugar. The whole time I was making the cookies the kitchen reeked of bacon. I couldn't even smell the molasses, the bacon smell was so strong. My heart was filled with despair! Here I was trying to make my Christmasy cookies and this blasted bacon smell was ruining everything! I pretty much gave my cookies up for lost. I did persevere, however, and popped the cookies into the oven, thinking I had just wasted a bunch of time. Much to my surprise and gratitude, the bacon flavor baked out of them! It was my own Christmas miracle. :-) And we've been enjoying them immensely. In a few of the cookies, though, you can just barely get a slight hint of bacon. But if using bacon crumbles on a dessert is good enough to use on Top Chef, then why not in my cookies, I ask you? :-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Homemade Christmas

We have been seriously decluttering lately. We've been giving away books, movies, clothes, and anything else we feel we don't need. It has been wonderfully liberating! We've got a ways to go and sometimes it's just finding the right home for something - like my old Civil War reenacting clothes that I sewed myself. You can't just give that to Goodwill!

As I unpacked our artificial Christmas tree late last month I realized that it was just taking up space year after year. We had been given the tree as a bridal shower gift from my old roommates since we were married around Christmas (just had our 5 year anniversary!). But we didn't need it. In fact, I didn't want it anymore. So, after this Christmas I'm thinking our tree will be the next to head out the door. Not to the dump, but hopefully to a home where they don't have a tree or wouldn't mind adopting ours.

I am really excited to reinvent how our family celebrates Christmas, not drastically, but by implementing thrifty, homemade skills infused with nature. Christmas is definitely about celebrating the birth of Jesus! But I also think that it is a wonderful time to celebrate the beauty of the winter and the Lord's creations. What better way than to bring the outside in with its bright greens and reds, its rich and piney smells. So, next year I'd like to either cut our own, small Christmas tree or buy a live potted tree. The live tree is the most environmentally friendly tree, which you can plant when you're done with it. It's nice if you have the land to do that. If you cut your own tree, I also really like the idea of once you're done with your Christmas tree, you can sit it outside and decorate it with birdseed ornaments as a winter treat for the birds. The ornaments provide food, but the tree itself provides shelter for nervous little birds who still want a treat without feeling exposed by feeding at a naked deciduous tree.

I'm also really excited to pare down on our store-bought ornaments and replace them with ones that I make with our kids. I remember my mom doing that with us. She had a box full of old Christmas cards. She helped us trace circles on the part of the picture that we liked, cut it out and then pasted it back to back with another circle. She threaded a string at the top and we had a pretty, 2-sided, custom-made ornament!

Here's a fun homemade idea. Besides the traditional popcorn-cranberry garland, here's a really fun idea for a felt ball garland from Jordan Ferney that you can bead yourself instead of having the standard metallic tinsel rope. I'm totally planning on making one of these!

Here are some more homemade ornaments from our very own tree that are easy and fun to make with kids.

Felt ice skates with paper clips for the skate part:

Beaded Wreath made by my talented step-mommy:

Pasta Angel - one of my favorites as a kid:

Cinnamon "Cookie" ornaments - mix equal parts Elmers Glue and ground cinnamon into a dough. Roll out between plastic wrap, cut with cookie cutters, gently press in beads if you like and let dry! Mmm! Nice and spicy!:

 Baby Jesus in a milkweed pod covered in glitter:

Paint your own homemade 1st Christmas ornaments!  They're inexpensive -less than 99 cents at Michaels:

Drum made from Q-Tips, Milk bottle caps, yarn and that plastic grid stuff you can sew yarn into... whatever it's called!:

 Clothespin reindeer with googly eyes:

Playdough Picture ornament (yes that's 5 year old me!):

Yarn Sheep made from a cardboard body, clothes pin legs and white yarn:

What are some homemade ornaments that you've made?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reuseable Food Wrap

I've been wondering if I would ever find a solution to replacing our ziplocs and plastic wrap. I am a big fan of Press 'n' Seal, just because it actually sticks, you know? Well, I was browsing on Progressive Pioneer and found this link on how to make your own reusable food wrap, replacing plastic wrap forever! It's made using fabric and beeswax. Wow! I'd like to give it a try. It looks really easy!

Reuseable Food Wraps*

What you’ll need:

1. Scraps of fabric, preferably sheeting weight, torn into squares the same width as your cookie sheets

2. Pure beeswax (a few votive candles work fine)

3. Parchment paper or Silpat

4. Clothesline, rigged up wide enough to hang one or two squares of fabric to dry

5. Clothespins, safety pins or paper clamps

6. Scissors or a paper cutter

7. Buttons, beads and string, if desired

What to do

Preheat your oven to 150° F. Tear or cut your fabric to size. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper, and place fabric on top.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave beeswax onto your fabric. Don’t use too much, though; you may want to do a test piece so you get a sense of coverage. (I think we got it right on our third one and it was about half as much as I assumed we would need.)

Place in the oven until all wax is melted and soaked in, about 8 or 9 minutes.

Remove from oven and pick up with clothespins (careful, it’s a bit hot!). Hang to dry about 5 minutes.

Use a paper cutter with a decorative edge or pinking sheers to cut a pretty edge.

Check out the Abeego website for closure ideas or just get creative!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Continuation of Turkey

This time of year there are thousands of recipes floating around out there on the internet about how to use all your leftover turkey. I'm a simple gal. I'll try a fancy recipe every now and then, but mostly my food is simple.
I just thought I'd share with you a small list of what I've done with my leftover turkey.

(A note: I cook my turkey in a bag, debone it and then reheat the meat in all its juices with the fat skimmed off for the Big Meal on Thanksgiving. That way the turkey is tender and juicy - even the white meat! I store the turkey in its juices in the fridge, that way when its reheated all the juices are still there. Yummy!)

1. Turkey, Rice & Vegetable Soup
I made a potful of broth from the turkey carcass, a couple of carrots, a chopped onion and some herbs and spices. I used some broth to make the soup, added some cooked brown rice and some frozen mixed vegetables. Simple. (I froze the rest of the broth to use later.)

2. Warm Turkey Sandwich.
Bread, Miracle Whip (none of that nasty mayo for me, thanks!), mustard and turkey. Classic.

3. Italian Turkey Melt
A slice of ciabatta bread with turkey and cheese heated in a 350º oven. I made a homemade pasta sauce and poured that over.

4. Fried Rice with Turkey
Stir fried shredded carrots, leeks, chicken bouillon base and a scrambled egg mixed up with some leftover brown rice and the turkey.

5. Oriental Turkey
Turkey simmered in a store-bought Asian sauce (homemade is great too!) and served with frozen stir-fry veggies and rice. We love the brown rice around here!

Things I plan on doing:
-Turkey Pot Pie
-Turkey Tacos
-Whatever occurs to me on the fly...

How do you use your leftover turkey?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Short Term

My whole life I've considered myself a writer. I started writing in 1st grade and since then had ambitions to be published and whatnot. I wrote my first "book" in 7th grade - at least the first draft. It was terrible, of course. I haven't finished a long story since then. I'm beginning to see that I might not be cut out for long term projects. I just have a hard time envisioning the long term goal in the minuscule day-to-day things. Even in admitting this my soul cries out, "No! It's not true! You can do it!" I don't want to be a quitter, I just think that I have greater success with shorter-term goals. Like cooking and baking. Very short term. Short stories and haiku. Short term. I lost 30 lbs. in 6 months (before my 2nd baby came along). Relatively short term. I saved $2000 in a year. (No rent, free food, and putting my money in a bank that I didn't frequent except to deposit the odd amount of cash. It was one of the biggest successes of my early 20s life!) Semi-short term.

Short term is so satisfying. It makes you feel like you accomplished something. And it's a real confidence booster. When it comes to long term goals my knees start to quiver and my tummy feels like jello. I know long term goals are really important. And I've heard all kinds of ways to get you on the path to accomplishing those long term goals. Like writing out your plan and all the baby steps along the way. Visualize yourself at the end...

But it's just so hard to visualize that distant future. It's so hard to realize that little actions I do now add up to achieving what I want in the end. Like the book I want to publish someday. Like buying that house with land! Like finishing the 3 quilts I have in the works... (Quilts are long term, by the way. At least in my mind they are, because I insist on doing them the slow way. Crazy, I know. But rotary cutters terrify me!)

You know what it really takes for long term goals besides insane organization? Discipline. Rock hard self-discipline. I used to be so good at that. Not sure what happened. I think major life changes will do that to you; they kind of throw you for a loop and leave you feeling a little dazed. I still feel that way since my second baby. And it takes gumption. That stubborn insistence, that heck yeah, you can do it! I've got loads of that.

So one quilt square, one sentence, one dollar at a time. I'll make it. Just as soon as I find where I put my self-discipline. It's around here somewhere, I swear!
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