Friday, October 26, 2012

Cost Comparison

What we ate for dinner tonight:
  • White Bean Rosemary Soup (The author of this blog is a Mormon; I am not. Just so you're aware.)
  • Cabbage slaw with apples and apple cider vinegar dressing
  • Roasted zuchini
  • Buttermilk biscuits with butter and strawberry jam (these also fulfill the need for dessert!)
While we ate I did some figuring in my head. This dinner came in at around $4. It was quite cheap until I added the biscuits. The shortening and butter made the cost climb quickly. 

Last night, after his meeting, Bryan surprised me with a Decaf Grande Mocha from Starbucks. I loved the surprise. I loved the mocha.

At the table tonight one of the kids quips, "This whole dinner costs less than your mocha last night." You see, there is a certain amount of guilt in drinking away the equivalent of an entire meal to feed a family of six. Kids are very good at cost comparison.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mass Production: Cocoa Mix and Chai

We are all stocked up for winter. Applesauce in the freezer. Hot cocoa and chai mix tucked in the cupboard. The staples of life, right? Maybe not, but little pleasures certainly. I'll share my recipes for the chai mix and cocoa. I don't often have a cup of either, they have too much sugar. But the kids love them. And best of all, they keep my husband happy. The only warning I'll issue is that this is a dusty process. You might need to wipe down your cupboards afterwards and you must blend the mixture. That is the part of the process that helps the mix dissolve well in hot water.

Chai Tea Mix
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 c. powdered milk
1 ½ c. instant tea
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon (I often leave this out)
1 tsp. ground cloves (and sometimes leave this out too)
1 tsp. ground cardamom
In a small bowl combine sugar and vanilla and allow to dry.  After it has dried out; break up any clumps. In a large bowl mix all ingredients.  In a blender, blend the mix, 1 c. at a time until it is a fine powder.  Put the mix into containers and attach the following instructions:
            For each mug of tea, mix 2 rounded tablespoons of chai tea mix with hot water.

Hot Cocoa Mix
16 c. powdered dry milk
1 ¼ c. cocoa powder
5 c. sugar
½ tsp. salt
In large bowl, mix all ingredients well and store in an air tight container.  Run it through the blender for a smooth hot cocoa mix.
Package in glass canning jars and attach a card that says:
            For a delicious cup of hot cocoa, put 1/3 c. mix into a large mug, pour in boiling water, and stir.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Fall Garden

Lettuce -  coming in

Kale - with itty bitty curls

Swiss Chard - bugs love organic greens, especially the chard

Basil - hoping the seeds mature before frost

Lettuce -  thinnings for the salad bowl

Basil - for the freezer
The summer garden was a failure. We are thankful for our fallback plan: the grocery store. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. To date, the fall garden is growing nicely. Except the Swiss Chard. The bugs have a love affair with the chard, entire plants suddenly disappearing. Consumed so ravenously I can only find a quarter inch of red stalk pressed down into the dirt. I am incredibly grateful for the fallback.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Friends: The Turtles

Arden and I had just finished reading Minn of the Mississippi when we spotted the first turtle. It was making its way up the neighbor's driveway. It was old, the old crack in the shell speaking of a hard life. It was shy, not moving as long as we were in sight. Arden was thrilled, a real, live turtle. A snapper, like Minn, would have been more exciting, but not much.

We see turtles every fall. Only in the fall. They make their way through our yard, going where turtles go when its fall. We usually see just one. Sometimes two. This year three. It's a good year for turtles.

The fellow with the gaudy orange spots wasn't the least bit shy and he was in a bit of a hurry. His legs churned the whole time we held him, and he ran, a turtle sort-of-a-run, as soon as we set him free.

And the baby was a singularly wonderful surprise. Everybody loves a baby.

What We Ate For Dinner Tonight

You're curious, aren't you? What did we eat? Why would I post about our dinner? The answer...there is no good reason at all. I wanted to and I'm not worried that you won't be impressed.

Bryan is out of town. Last night we had McDonald's for dinner. I won't lie, we enjoyed it. We have not eaten there in ages, but the kids were convinced they could win the Monopoly game after just one meal. I remember the unbounded optimism I had when I was ten, so I humored them.

Well, tonight I made Black Bean burgers, oven fries (with olive oil and skins on), and fruit smoothies. It struck me that it was similar to what we ate last night, only made with the foods we eat at home. That struck me as funny.

And that is what we ate for dinner tonight.

In Review: One Week Off

A well-deserved week off was a pleasure. No school work hanging over heads. No guilt. No ridiculously inflated plans. My only mistake was in putting off until the end of the week all my outdoor activities. We had a rainy weekend. A rainy weekend is always lovely, but a few of my plans came to naught.

What did I do?
  • The living room curtains.
  • The front hall closet.
  • Moved the rose bush.
  • Painted the pantry. The white paint is quite spiffy. Today Ally and I did some pantry reorganization.
  • Ally sewed doll clothes by herself. I did help her a bit one afternoon this week instead.
  • Sorted through storage boxes. This was an ordeal. The kids had been in the closet and reorganized all the boxes into a fort. Before I could begin sorting there was a 2 hour clean up session. In the end I had 3 trash bags for Goodwill and a couple of boxes of clothes for a friend. This is very impressive. You could ask why I had all that junk sitting around in the first place, but be kind and don't mention it.
  • I bought a box of apples from a "wholesale guy." It was one of those "Arkansas" experiences. Sometimes I have them. He sold a bushel of apples for only $15. This seemed like a really good deal, about 36 cents a pound. They were quite soft, so we hustled and made 52 cups of applesauce (plus what we ate while we worked). We froze it in Ziploc bags; 4 cups to a bag.
We finally made it to the apple orchard this week. We only picked two small bags of apples. Just enough for eating fresh. I am hugely frustrated with the Christmas knitting. I've been searching, for days, for the pattern I was sure I had kept. I was sure I had knitting patterns in only two file folders. That was a misplaced confidence. I have found patterns in three places and am still searching. This always happens to me. I think I am organized, but I'm not. Not really.

The time I spent on the couch watching a movie with Arden, in the middle of the day (gasp!), might have been better spent organizing. The hours I spent reading The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection could be considered wasted. Or I could consider it a little vacation. A vacation to a sunny land in which food, cooked with love, undoubtedly tastes better and a mechanic judges a man's character by the car he drives. A vacation under a sunny African sky, with a "traditionally built" woman drinking red bush tea at a rate of 100 cups per week, and where good-hearted, common sense people triumph in the end.
"Do not take on a traditionally built person unless you are prepared for a heavyweight bout."
That, my friends, is good, common sense. And maybe part of the appeal of Alexander McCall Smith's book is the appeal of a culture that moves at different pace, not constantly measuring what they have accomplished in a day. Or a week. In that sense it may have been the perfect book for my week off.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fall Break

We are celebrating here this week. Celebrating having finished nine weeks of school. Celebrating by going to the library, enjoying lazy mornings, and lazy afternoons, and lazy evenings.

I gave a few moments of consideration to attempting a Fall Cleaning. It would have been ambitious. It would have resulted in a clean house top to bottom. It would have been a good use of my time. It would also have been a lot of work. Even mom gets worn out by the school schedule: it's very time consuming.

Instead I opted to complete one big project each day. One project I've been putting off. One project that has felt overwhelming. I will accomplish a few things I can feel good about and still have time for the library books I checked out. (I am always overly optimistic in the library.)

So far here is what I have done:
  • My living room curtains shrunk last time I washed them. I let out the hem, ironed, stitched, washed and re-hung them. It took almost all day. That's why my curtains have looked silly for so long.
  • Cleaned out the front hall closet. The shoes were piled high. Six people times five pairs (or so) each equals a disaster. Of course, there were also outgrown coats, discarded tee-shirts, books, marbles, and other detritus of life with children.
I have a long list of ideas for the last three days of the week. You see, I can't do it all. I'll dream big and pick and choose.
  • Pick more apples. Make more applesauce. Try homemade applesauce fruit leather and oven-dried apples.
  • Plant one more batch of lettuce and Swiss chard in the garden. Move a rose bush.
  • Sort through the storage boxes in one closet.
  • Sew doll clothes with Ally.
  • Paint. I have enough leftover paint to spiff up the pantry and my TV stand. But I probably only have enough time to do one.
  • Start knitting Christmas presents.
Hooray for joyful, lazy mornings, busy days and weather that allows for open windows and lots of time outside!