About Me

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User of little pieces -- of time, fabric, food, land, even trash. I am fascinated with the mighty power of the Small and Bypassed to transform into usefulness and beauty. As a mother of seven, living for decades on one income, I have practice using up Every Little Bit of Every Little Thing. My treasures have grown now and I have the joy of teaching preschool. I find this gift for making practical use of the Small and Bypassed, PLUS the gift of time to create, has channeled into simple, artistic expressions of small things.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fair to middlin' piddlin' considering the oranges . . .

Piddling.  I did a lot of that today.   Wandered around the house looking for something to do that I actually wanted to do.  I am not blessed, as some are, with a love for house cleaning, so when I have time on my hands, that's not where my mind wanders.  

Bill and I ran some errands in town, I had a nice trip to Wendy's farm store with friend Kathy and picked up some frozen peaches and blueberries, did a load of laundry, made us all fruity smoothies and made supper, but other than that . . . I wasted a good bit of time. 

I don't enjoy wasting time.   It's just not fun for me.  I'm working on working that out during this season of my life. It's a wonderful and weird decade for me.  My children need me less, I have far more freedom than I've ever had, and am getting to spread my artistic wings, but I have a need to use my time well and purposefully, to bless my family and help my sweet husband who has worked his little butt off for 37 years for his loves. I'm praying and looking for opportunities to do that, but . . . I digress.  (I ALWAYS DIGRESS!  And will you look at that!  I just digressed in the middle of my digressing :-(  )

One of my "piddles" was not actually a waste.  It was creative and fun and useful.  Smallish sort of oranges have been 6 for $1 for a couple of weeks at Newman's Country Mart, and we have availed ourselves of dozens of them.  Today Eli and I washed and peeled several, splitting the fruit into segments and freezing them in a single layer on a baking sheet.  When they were frozen, I put them in an airtight container in the freezer for smoothies.  

I tore the peelings into small pieces and created a lot of zest, which was spread into a thin layer on parchment paper and frozen, then poured into an airtight container and returned to the freezer.  This will make extracts, add spice to tea and coffee, and be available for recipes calling for zest as long as the flavor is fresh.

You may have seen recipes for making your own orange cleaner.  I found a very simple one -- just peels and white vinegar.  I filled a pretty little jelly jar with fresh zest and poured white vinegar over it,
There it is, all pretty and capped and waiting for me to strain out the zest in a couple of weeks.  I'll pour the resulting orange vinegar back in the jar and top it off with water to dilute it. Then it will be ready for use.  I have never made it before, so I don't know how well it works, but I'm excited to find out!

I suspect the orange flavored vinegar might be really good in homemade salad dressing.  I hope I remember to try it!

Middle, piddle, fiddle a little -- there's an opportunity for some Ogden Nash or Shel Silversten style verse right there!  What you got?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Snapshots from my kitchen -- might as well be pretty!

Bill cut the sheetrock out from between the studs in our kitchen and built little shelves in for more storage space.  We needed it! 

I can't help but use them as frames for little vignettes or to store little collections -- birds, zinc lids . . .

I dearly love antique canning jars and the old kitchen tools. They are practical and a beautiful thing!

Home canned foods and nifty little bottles, which will be used for vanilla or other extracts as needed, provide a little stained glass feel to the shelves. 

Little shelves call out to little things . . .
"Come little birdies and baskets and all
Come you who are tiny and you who are small.
Come home to my kitchen and find a dear nest.
Bring joy to my kitchen; it's what you do best!"

More "stained glass" and little things:  a tiny wrench and oil can, an old rusted ceiling or wall hook.  I'll put it to work someday, maybe.  For now it's busy being decorative.

This little enamel pitcher holds maybe three cups.  When we six Vanderberg kids were growing up back in the 40's through the 70's, our dad would make maple syrup in it for Sunday morning pancakes.  I believe he used brown sugar, water, and maple flavoring and simmered it together.  I know we used it warm and it was delicious.   My oldest sister recently sacrificially passed it down to me.  It's a treasure!

Little miscellaneous vintage silver-plate waiting to be turned into hooks to hang things on.  And a cue ball rescued from a fire. I don't know why, but there it is, and I like it.

Some small bottles with bits of extracts or waiting to have new extracts made in them.   I love the teeny-tiny one with the feather from our yard.  Actually from a bird . . . .
For real, my kitchen is small and usually in use and therefore messy, but these little shelves stay busy and neat and keep their hands to themselves, so I am pleased with them.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Grand glittering pinecones!

Glitter for the girls . . . glitter for the boys

My favorite pants are corduroys . . .

I don't love glitter messiness, and neither does Miss Warna Solari, my co-teacher in preschool, but these darling grands helped me test out glitter cones for a preschool Christmas craft, and I do love the results. Terah Gregg came up with a less-mess method, so it's a go.

The cones were free, which is my favorite dollar amount, and my glitter is a garage sale or thrift store purchase at $1.50 for several little containers (Too long ago to remember where I got it! It could have been last month and that would be too long ago . . . )

We will need more glitter for preschool, and will purchase what we need, but seriously, if you have some sitting around you aren't going to use, send it my way, if you are so inclined.  I will give you the preschool address!

I love to use up materials that are gathering dust more than I love to buy new things. I think second-hand purchases count for the using up. 

It's not just thriftiness, though that's part of the "love". Raising seven on one lower income bolstered frugality fo' sho'! It's more the challenge of Not Wasting Things; Making Do With What You Have that I love.

Back to the cones.  While the waxed paper did a good job of catching excess sprinkled glitter for reuse and mess control, Terah's idea is better.  We need containers small enough to not use tons of glitter, and large enough to roll the glue tipped pine cones in.  And I've heard from friends that putting the glitter in a zip-lock type bag and shaking it up is fairly safe in terms of keeping glitter contained.

We used Tacky Glue, but school glue is fine.  I watered down the Tacky glue just a tiny bit -- a few drops of water to a couple tsp. glue stirred together in a small bowl.  We took the cones in hand and painted glue mostly just down the tips of the cones, and after sprinkling glitter on the cones (or rolling the cones in the tubs of glitter) laid them to dry on waxed paper.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

That's a fine mess! Simple granola, polenta, and all that stuff. . . .

Oh, for heaven's sake!

There are so many recipes for granola, and I don't even really have one.   I throw mass quantities of old-fashioned oats into a very large bowl.  That's step one.

Step two through eleventy:

Add and mix in a cup, each, of whatever I have one hand, which this morning was: 

coconut, sweetened or un-, flakes, shreds or ground
sunflower seeds
sesame seeds
wheat germ
wheat bran

Add and stir in well:

1/2 cup of apple butter in the bottom of a quart jar just to get the jar out of the fridge
about 3/4 cup brown sugar
about 1/4 cup of black strap molasses
a huge, heaping tbsp. of ground cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp of cloves and nutmeg

That's it for this morning.  I will pour this into two large steam table pans I inherited from Grandpa and Grandma Toad's restaurant closing years ago, and bake it at 250 for a couple hours, stirring every 1/2 hour or so.

If I had any, when it cools completely, I would add craisins and chopped dates, but I am out.  Maybe I'll pick some up later today to toss with it.

I don't add fat of any kind to keep the calories, expense and staleness out of the granola.  I make such a large amount that it may last us 3 weeks to a month, and once heated, cooking oils become even LESS healthful than they were before -- rancid, toxic . . . blah.  I don't know about butter?  I just don't use it.  Oils do add crispiness and richness.  You decide.
Additions to the granola -- almost any kind of nuts, leftover breakfast cereals, mini-chocolate chips or dried fruits (when cool), sweetening can be honey, sugar, molasses, any of the more healthful sugars are great, sometimes I add a box of store bought granola from Aldi instead of much sweetening at all simply because one box is SO sweet it will sweeten the whole batch (over 30 cups is what I usually end up with) and we love the crunchy stuff in it.   Raisin Bran, also from Adli, is a good addition, too.  Obviously we are not purists with organic, homemade, etc.  I love to use organic, pure foods, but that's not always how it goes here.

I have polenta cooling in my sweet, old bread pan that I inherited from my mother.  These pans (I have four) held of lot of her delicious banana breads; a history of some serious love and sacrifice in these pans, but that's for another time.

You will find hundreds of recipes for polenta online, and mine is probably one of the simplest, so dress it up!  Our plan for this batch is to slice it thin, and fry it in butter.  A definitely dressed DOWN affair, but delicious and inexpensive!

Bring four cups of water into which you have added 1 to 2 tsp. of salt to a simmer.  In a bowl, stir together 1 cup of cornmeal and 1/4 cup of flour.  When the water begins to simmer, whisk the dry mixture into the wet, continuing to simmer until it thickens, and then turn it way down, cover it, and let it continue to sploop and thicken for ten more minutes or so.  

 It reminds me of Lisa Douglas's pancake batter on Green Acres -- another happy childhood memory!

Once it's thickened, stir in a tbsp. or so of butter, pour it into the bread pan and let it cool on the counter.  When it's cooled, put it in the fridge where it will continue to firm up until you are ready to slice and fry it in a little butter. 

Oh, my goodness!  Fry it in bacon drippings. We seldom have bacon, but I've had it fried in bacon drippings before.   Served with maple syrup????   Serious "Yum" factor.

Frying it:  Using medium high heat and butter to cover the bottom of the pan, fry slices (1/4" thick or so) until browned on one side, flip and brown on the other.  Doesn't take long -- a few minutes.

Polenta can be served in so many ways!  As mush which sounds disgusting but tastes good, with additions of cheese and onion as a side dish, seasoned with sage and thyme as for stuffing and served with gravy . . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Life, the bazaar and chicken soup with homemade noodles . . .

The military is flying overhead; an unintentional reminder of traumas and dramas rocking our world. So much devastation and so many broken hearts and baked-hard hearts -- and how weird that life just goes on. Recently I spoke to My Little Elephant and we noted the speed of life and that maybe it's a good thing. Time may or may not be short on this planet, but there's eternity waiting in the wings. 
We need to take better care of each other.
Grandfriendboy is snuggling on my lap which is a sign that he isn't quite himself. Catching a cold or an allergy or a sinus thing. He is usually too busy to cuddle with me except at naptime. Then he needs to be close to see the pictures in "The Monster at the End of This Book," and "Silly Tilly," and "We're Going on a Bear Hunt." 
Today, before entering his sleepy haze, he asks if he can nap with his eyes open. I say, "Sure." He tells me, "Sometimes I snore" and begins making buzzsaw noises. I close my eyes and return gusty reciprocal saw snores. I find myself a solo snorer in a few seconds and find his eyes fixed on me in apparent fascination. I can only assume my snoring is causing my face to vibrate in a curious way -- our skin gets a little loose, you know, when we get older, allowing this to happen. Sad but true.
Soon he is gently snoring, for real, and I slip downstairs, remembering I need to post pix of the Bazaar Saturday, and thinking, as I do SO often, how grateful I am that my daughters are good cooks. Saturday I called home after the bazaar and asked Anna to make homemade noodles, and by the time Mamasan and I walked in the front door twenty minutes later they are nearly ready to toss into soup which I quickly throw together with:
a couple cups of leftover corn and baked potatoes
8 cups of water, give or take
a couple tbsp. chicken bouillon give or take
a couple tbsp. dehydrated onions
a 15 oz can of green beans
3 cups chopped leftover chicken
about a tsp. each of black pepper, oregano, ground celery seed
about a tbsp. of curry powder
This made a lot -- more than enough for the eight of us that evening, which means lunch the next day was taken care of.
Here's what it takes for Anna's noodles, but noodles are not rocket science and the variations are legion:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or pasta flour
1 tsp. salt (you can leave it out)
2 eggs
2 tbsp. milk
Stir this all together and knead until it's smooth and elastic like bread dough.  If the dough is too wet, add a bit of flour at a time.  If it's too dry, add some liquid, but try to gauge it for dryness before it's well kneaded, because it's hard to knead in liquid.
When I was learning to make pasta, the recipes I used said you want a stiff dough.  I was frustrated because in trying to achieve stiffness my dough was always too dry to roll out well, and I would have to knead in more milk or water, which made the dough slimy!  I finally gave up on "a stiff dough" and started making a soft, pliable dough, which is much easier to roll out, and therefore more fun.  Which is good!
Cover with plastic if you want to let it sit for 20 minutes or so.  Letting it rest helps it not to snap back when you roll it out.    I never want to wait, so I just keeping rolling along. . .
Dust your rolling surface with flour, pluck off a piece of dough maybe the size of a couple of biscuits, flour it if needed, and roll it out to about 1/8" thickness or thinness.    Slice the noodles into the widths you like -- I use a pizza cutter, toss them with flour so they don't stick together (The flour will thicken the soup), or just drop them right into your simmering soup.  They will take about 15 minutes to cook depending on how thick/thin they are.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pancakes in a pinch! The recipe . . .

This Grandpa and Grandson sporting event requires giggles, guffaws and groans. I hear this from my room where I am finishing Psalms, coffee and perusing Martha Stewart, in that order, which is not important to remember. 

Slipping down the stairs I hear cheering and squealing from Grandboy, who is sitting on the kitchen counter alert and leaning forward to witness . . .

"They're touching! They're touching! I get to pinch you!" 

"Ohhhhhhh, noooooooo. You get to pinch me. LAST time, I got to pinch YOU!" Pinching and giggling ensues.
Next time, they DON'T touch and it's Grandpa's turn to pinch.
"Where do I want to pinch. hmmmmmmm. How about HERE?" and little ticklish thighs get squoze and so many peals of laughter ring out, you think that boy is a giggle bell!

This goes on for fully 20 minutes!

What is it it that's touching or not touching that allows this pinching???  Pancakes on the griddle. If they touch, Luke gets to pinch Papa. If they don't touch, the pinch privilege is in Papa's strong fingers. 

Papa has to pull his pinches as he might pull a punch in a mock fight or this would not be fun. But as it is, Papa knows just how and where to pinch, and pancakes are squoze into a little boy's memory where they will be warm and ready to serve to his own children, perhaps, someday.

My part in this play is to keep the container of pancake mix filled up, and this morning Papa has used up the last of it, so I get out my ingredients and my giant bowl and my apron, because THERE WILL BE FLOUR FLYING!

You can use whole wheat or all-purpose flour, rye flour, cornmeal or corn flour, etc. Here's my recipe.  Tweak away.  Make it your own.  Play with the spices.  Mix it up!  And use a really big bowl because it can be messy with flour and whatnot floofing up as you stir:

10 cups whole wheat flour
10 cups cornmeal
1 1/4 cup sugar or to taste. 
7 tbsp. baking powder
7 tbsp. ground cinnamon, if desired
3 1/2 tbsp. salt
3 1/2 tbsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. ground nutmeg, if desired
6 2/3 cups dried milk powder if you have it, if not leave it out and add the milk in when you make the pancakes.

Mix all this dry stuff up, turning it over and over in the bowl until all is well blended.  Store in the freezer in an airtight container or two.

To make a batch of 4 to 6 pancakes, measure out 1 cup of mix, and for every cup of dry mix add 1 egg, 1 tbsp. of oil, and 3/4 cup of water if you added dried milk to the mix, or 3/4 cup of milk if you didn't.   You need the milk to help react with the leavening so the pancakes will rise. 

The amount of water or milk you add will vary somewhat with the grains you use.  I like to make my batter a little bit on the thin side, because as we are making the pancakes, the batter in the bowl will thicken up as the cornmeal continues to absorb liquid.  So REMEMBER!  You will need to experiment with the quantity of milk or water you use.

If you did not add dried milk to the mix, that cup of mix will make a bit more pancake.

Cook them on a med-high heat on a greased griddle.  When they begin to bubble and the sides start to look dry, flip them over and finish cook them. 

I love them with the sweet spices added.  I do not add butter or syrup to mine very often as I think they taste like slightly sweet cake donuts, which I can say nothing evil about! 

Anyway, they'll do in a pinch!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Pumpkin Chronicles -- The Sequel

Today I processed two $1 Medium pumpkins from Wal-mart. 

I ended up with eight pints of pureed pumpkin . . . . six in the freezer and two in the soup we ate for supper! That's EIGHT PINTS FOR $2.  Yes and amen.

I learned two cool and important things today.  Pumpkin skin is edible!  The fact that you no longer have to peel pumpkin before use astounds me as does the fact that I did not know this until today; another reason to wash the squash.

The second sweet morsel is that you can puree it with an immersion blender.  In the pot you cook it in!  Less mess, fewer dishes to clean up.  Since I do not particularly enjoy cleaning up, this is as lovely as gossamer faerie wings highlighted with gold sprinkles and I do mean that.

Every Little Thing!

Finding value in the Bypassed and the Small . . .