Honey-Citrus Granola

We get a lot of our groceries from Costco.  It saves money, but it means that we end up with things like 10 lb bags of rolled oats.  And there is only so much oatmeal you can eat.  After a round of oatmeal Craisin cookies or banana oatmeal bread, you still have five pounds of rolled oats staring at you.  Let me tell you, the Quaker Oats guy can give a mean stink-eye after a while.

And so I’ve been making granola on a semi-regular basis*.  The other night I pulled out my current favorite recipe from Mother Nature Network.  Unfortunately, I was short several ingredients: no nuts, limited cinnamon, and limited vanilla extract.  I excavated a bottle of orange extract from the back of the cupboard and found lemons and limes in the fridge from a recent grocery trip.  Add in the rather large jar of ground nutmeg and and idea formed: Citrus Granola.  That sounded breakfast-y!  Time for an experiment.  Below is the recipe I used.  The result was a granola with a very distinct citrus-flavor.  I have enough orange extract left that I will most likely make it again.

If you decide to make it, let me know how it turned out for you.

Continue reading Honey-Citrus Granola

Toilet Paper Roll Garland Tutorial

If you’ve been saving your toilet paper rolls for seed starter pots and find yourself with still more rolls than you have use for, make a pretty holiday garland.  Little crafters can help with some of the construction, so they can feel part of the holiday decorations.  The idea of this garland was inspired by toilet paper roll flowers pictures here.  Coloring them green and red give them a festive feel. Continue reading Toilet Paper Roll Garland Tutorial

Backyard Garden Project: Harvested Goods

The thing about yard clean up, the kind that involves cutting branches and hauling stones and pulling down fences, is that you end up with a lot of stuff. Most of it gets sorted into the compost heap, or rubbish bin, or stacked up for use later on. Some of it you look at and think, “I bet I could do something with that.” You might not know what, exactly, you could do. But you decide to set it aside just in case. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Harvested Goods

Backyard Garden Project: Raised Beds

The idea started off simply enough: to turn the backyard into a garden.  The indecision, however, is in the details.  While we could, theoretically, pull up all the lawn and plant right into the ground, we have two dogs who have no regard for boundaries.  Enya, a German short-haired pointer, will trample over plants, push over fences and chicken wire, and steal cucumbers right off the vine.  We also have our share of rabbits who trek through the yard, despite the wooden fence and the presence of the dogs.  I’ve lost more pea shoots than I can count to bunny thieves.  Taking all of those factors into account, we decided raised beds throughout the backyard would be our best bet. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Raised Beds

Backyard Garden Project: Woodpile & Compost Heap

In my quest to create a backyard garden (as opposed to a garden in my backyard) some things had to be tidied up.  November was going to be that month.  We knew we had to work quickly as possible since winter seemed on planning an early arrival.

Nightshade Covered Woodpile
Nightshade had taken over the wood pile. Pretty, but smelly, and got in the way of getting to the wood.

The big projects for the month involved trimming the branches from trees, the woodpile and the compost heap.  Trimming the branches would give us all sorts of wood for the fire pit next year.  Alas, the wood pile was still filled with branches and wood from previous years. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Woodpile & Compost Heap

Gardening as a Radical Act

My grandparents’ house stood on an acre of land, half of which was given over to gardening.  Most of it was taken up by vegetables: peas, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, even a few pumpkin plants for the grandkids come Halloween.  There was a small strip that I always thought of as The Orchard: an elderberry tree, pear, apple and cherry trees, as well as a few grape vines.  The perimeter of the area was ringed by berry bushes: gooseberry, currant, Chinese cherries.  Having raised five kids on little money, my grandparents, my grandmother in particular, had the cultivation and production of foodstuffs down to an art.

Continue reading Gardening as a Radical Act

Doing the Math

I’ve been trying for a while to write this all out.  I’ve gone through several drafts.  The obstacle I keep running into is not knowing how to start.

So let’s start here: At one point I went through lengthy arbitration with The Bank That Shall Not Be Named.  I had to show P/L sheets, bank balances, invoices, etc. to prove my low-income status.  Looking over my year’s expenses and sales showed a net income in the low three figures.  The man who represented the bank was less than kind in his response.  “That’s all you make from sewing?  Why even bother?”*

Continue reading Doing the Math

I Had to Believe

While I was learning to work with clay, I made a lot of pots and had to believe that even if they were less than perfect the making of them was worthwhile and important.  To continue, I needed to find faith that the expression of my inner forms would become easier and that it had intrinsic value to me as a process of growth.  I had to believe that my vision and its pursuit were valuable to me and to those around me even though the world didn’t necessarily need more mediocre pottery.

—Rheya Polo, “Spinning from the Center—Creation & Transformation”

 

Heartfelt Wreath Craft Tutorial

One of the things you learn when you sell at conventions is that you will invariably have downtime.  You’ll find yourself sitting in your booth with no customers around.  You have one of two choices: either sit there, staring at everyone who wanders by with that hungry look of “Come buy from meeeee!” or you can find busy work that keeps the aura of desperation at bay.  I quickly took up playing with felt in between customers.  I started off just making little creatures for my daughter from the Aranzi Cute Stuff Book.  Soon I moved on to making less little kid friendly projects: Gothic Love Charms, Poisoned Posies and the like.

Which is where this tutorial comes in.  I found myself with some leftover green felt from the pumpkins project.  I already had some red on hand, and I needed a wreath for the holiday season.  Thus, the Heartfelt* Wreath was born.

Continue reading Heartfelt Wreath Craft Tutorial

Peter Rubi

Saturday is usually market day for us, which means heading out to Peter Rubi.  It is a bit of a drive from us; a trip that takes us out through farmland and by the Dupage River.  Despite the drive, the trip is always worth it, enough for us to make it weekly.  And by picking up our produce first, it makes planning meals for the week easier.  It also assures that I’m planning meals that use up all the produce so we don’t have sad, ruined veggies sitting in the fridge at the end of the month.

This time around we spent a total of $17 on a bunch of spinach and romaine lettuce, lemons, limes, two pineapples, a package of raspberries and blackberries, a pomegranate, two 8-lb bags of potatoes (for $1 each), garlic, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, and oranges for Charlotte’s lunch.  Factor in what we spent on gas and that’s about $25 for a week plus of food.

We make a lot of crock pot soups and stews, which is where most of the potatoes and carrots will go.  The berries, pomegranate and pineapple will go into fruit salads for breakfast or desert.  My goal is also to have salad with every dinner this week, which will use up the bulk of romaine, spinach and cucumbers.  And Stephan has offered to make potato pancakes.

Peter Rubi’s focus is on locally grown produce, which is probably why the food on their shelves always seems better than what I come across at my local grocery stores.  I would love to see more of these types of grocers open up, especially in areas that are underserved by the larger grocery store chains.  Shops like FARM:shop that bring urban farming into a grocery setting, and selling “ugly” produce like in France could help to get more vegetables and fruits to people who don’t have as many options. That would certainly be a more productive move than chastising people for “poor food choices” and trying to ban them from buying soda with food stamps.