Thursday, February 28, 2013

February Stitchery Accomplishments and Plans

Today is the Themalicious End of Month Wrap Up.  I'd just posted my stitchery progress a couple days ago, and can't see repeating it again today - no further progress on either of the two WIPs since then, but I did do one additional ornament - this one for the Ornament SAL:

Got Luck?
Plum Street Samplers 
tan 28ct linen
DMC and Gentle Art threads

This was a lot of fun to stitch, and fast, too. Yesterday was full of doctor's appointments and meetings, and this was just right to tuck into my bad and take along while I sat in various waiting rooms.

My plans for March are many - let's see how far I get, eh?

- The Themalicious Challenge for Mar is to try to work on a different WIP everyday!  I don't know that I can manage every day, but I am going to pull out my many WIPs and take a look at  them, figure out which I want to move forward on right now, and put at least a little time into the ones I select.

- the WIPocalypse themes are these: 
1) Designer: Chatelaine
2) Style: Springtime
3) Colors: Yellow & Green
I'm sure that, since I'll be working on numerous WIPs, at least a couple will qualify!

 - The Themalicious Ornament mini-challenge is to create a 3-D ornament - I've not picked a design yet, but I'm thinking either a Christmas themed biscornu or humbug.

- I will also be making an ornament for the Ornament SAL that will have something to do with spring, Ostara, Easter... a rabbit of some sort, maybe?

 New Starts
- I've agreed to donate two needlework pieces to our UU congregation's annual fundraising auction.  I want to look over finished but not yet framed projects I have to see if any of those might be a good fit, before selecting new starts.  The auction is in April, so I need to get my entries done.

- I also plan to donate a piece on behalf of my Druid Grove, for a festival  that is happening that same weekend, for their auction. We'll be attending there, so we'll have to miss the UU auction, which is a big shame, but I guess that's the way it goes sometimes.  I'm also going to take my inventory before deciding what to offer for this.

I'll post my WIPs and items  that are done being stitched, but need final completion soon.

Non Stitching Projects
- to get some of  those finished bits of stitchery actually completely done.  I don't actually enjoy  this part so much, but it's got to be done if I want to display my work.

- I signed up for an intro drop-spindle spinning class this month at the Accokeek Foundation.  I'm very excited to try my hand at this!

So, that's what's going to keep me craft in March - how about you?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Adventures with Tallow

The first time I heard of tallow, it was while reading one of the Little House on the Prairie books as a young girl, and they were talking about bear fat.  If I thought about tallow at all, I assumed it came from bears, was used only to make candles back in the 'olden days', and that was that.

I don't know when I figured out that tallow is not just made from bears.  It can come from sheep, bison, venison, or beef and is essentially the equivalent of lard. 

Far from being a relic of the olden days, beef fat has a multitude of uses.

Tallow can be used for candles (add a wick to a container, and pour in the melted tallow) and in soapmaking.  It is also useful  for balms and salves (I've got a salve recipe at the end of this post), promotes bone strengthening, and may have cancer-preventative properties.

Tallow is useful to keep on hand when you need to get a label off a jar - just rub a bit of tallow all over the glued on label, and let it sit for about a minute.  The label will then rub right off, along with most or all of the adhesive with very little effort.

Tallow was used traditionally (and still can be) to clean metallic surfaces, including iron.  It not only removes dirt and restores shine, but the oiliness creates a shield against oxidization (rust).

Tallow mixed with bird seed can be used to make simple birdfeeder.  Press the mixture into some pretty molds, and you've got some lovely outdoor decor that will keep your birds fed and content.

Like lard, you can, of course, cook with it. It has a high smoke point, making it great for frying foods. Remember back when everyone swore McDonalds made the best French fries?  They were utilizing tallow in their cooking oil.  The tallow gives the food a subtly rich taste you will never get from vegetable cooking oil, so that they taste good even after they've stopped being piping hot.  And it takes fried 'junk food' into the territory of being something with actual nutritious value.

Also like lard, tallow can be used in baking.  Before Crisco, there was lard and tallow keeping baked goods light and fluffy.  I haven't tried tallow for this purpose (we are no longer eating grain products), but biscuits, pie crusts and tortillas done with lard taste amazingly better than those made with processed vegetable oils, and I have little reason to think those done with tallow would be much different.  As we have come to realize the negative health effects of eating vegetable oils, it's good to know that stepping away from them to older ways also returns better tasting food!

So why am I chattering about tallow?  Because I rendered my own tallow for the first time this week!  On our last excursion to the farm for our meat for the month, I picked up a big package of beef fat, and another big package of pork fat (I'll be doing lard soon). 

[Sidenote: If you have a good source of pastured grass-fed meat, I cannot encourage you enough to buy the cheap stuff - the bones and the fat.  These will give you a huge bang for your buck, because they are full of nutrients and allow you to stretch out that more expensive meat, through broths and cooking fats  that actually contain things your body needs for good health, and makes everything taste wonderful.  This is  the real secret to frugal living:  done right, it feels decadent!]

Now, I'd never done this before, and I was more than a little intimidated.  I think I made it harder for myself than I had to, too - but that's what first tries are for! To make mistakes you don't have to repeat once you know.

I forgot to snap pictures along the way - I'll be sure and do  that step by step when I do the lard, because it's exactly the same process.

What I had was gigantic sections of fat - some of it 6 inches thick. It was mostly hard, about the consistency of cheddar cheese, and some more like a block of parmesan, and much of it had a thin layer of flesh still attached, or a thin ribbon of meat running through the middle.  Now what I read was that you needed to get all of that stuff off, so I cut and cut and chopped, and sliced away bits for well over an hour, and by the end of all that, my feet were tired, my hands were sore, and I was starting to understand very clearly why Crisco replaced animal fats.

Eventually it was done - I put the fat into a stock pot on low to slowly melt (this is all rendering is), and wondered what to do with all those scraps - I covered them in a container and refrigerated them while I thought about it.

I took a break (noting that my hands, while a bit sore, were also delightfully soft), and posted a note on Facebook about this, when a couple of my friends who are actually farmers responded and said they didn't really do all that - just run the fat through a food processor - shredding it up lets it melt a lot faster - and all the meaty bits will just cook and float to the surface so they can be skimmed off.  And also, they stressed that with a bit of salt, those meaty bits were awesome snacking.

So do it their way, not mine!  I will be, next time I do this.

Meanwhile, my fat was slowly melting down (it took hours and kept me up well into the night - next time I'm shredding the fat!), and the left behind cracklings were indeed very tasty. 

Melted tallow in small jars

Once the fat had been rendered, and the meaty bits skimmed off, I ran the fat through a wire fine mesh strainer into a container, and then from there through a smaller strainer into 1 cup jars.  Some people recommend cheesecloth, and to ensure nothing gets in that might become rancid, that's probably a good idea. I didn't have any, so I'll be storing mine in the refrigerator to be on the safe side.  Really pure tallow is shelf stable.

This represents about half of the tallow I got - and I'm positive I'd have gotten more if I hadn't been so fastidious about picking through it first.

As to all of those bits - I dumped them into the stockpot after I was done, and let them melt slowly and wound up with another couple cups of tallow, along with a lot of crunchy, tasty meaty bits which are, indeed, quite delicious with a sprinkle of salt.

Some of the meatier bits will wind up in our dog's mouth as treats over the next couple of days (she was being driven quite mad by all the broth and fat smells the last couple weeks), and some will end up on salads as a topping, like bacon bits.  The rest is going into the freezer, and the next time I want some substitute for breadcrumbs, I'm going to grind these up in the food process and use them, instead.

Am I tickled that I figured out how not to waste any of it? Oh yes, I am.  Ma Ingalls would be proud.

One last thing - in figuring all this out, I was doing some reading and came across this from Weston-Price about using tallow for skin care: Traditional Nourishing and Healing Skin Care.  This is well worth taking  the time to read, in order to understand why tallow is useful as a skin care product. 

After reading I decided to try to make a little bit of skin salve while I was at it. 

Tallow Olive Oil Balm

1/4 cup melted beef tallow
2 T. Olive oil
5 drops essential oil (use an oil safe to consume, and with properties that are pleasant smelling and with beneficial skin care qualities)

Mix together, and pour into a small container. When set, it will be softer than plain tallow.  This can be used for dry, chapped or chafed skin, dry lips, skin rashes and excema.

I very much wish my daughter lived still lived near me to test this - she has chronic skin issues, and it would be wonderful to find something that let her reduce her usage of corticosteroids. 

I put tea tree oil (an anti-fungal) into my test batch, because it's what I had on hand.  It was enough to mask the (very mild) 'meaty' scent of t he tallow.

I'll be picking up a few essential oils this next month, and want to make up a little in something more all-purpose and nice smelling.  I'm thinking, after reading the above, that a version with menthol (cooling), and one with capsaisin (heating), might make a good arthritis pain relieve salve, too.  I'm looking forward to experimenting more with this!

Also - it's been three days now since my frenzy of chopping the beef fat, and my hands are still silky smooth, and the bits I rubbed on my lips (mm tasty) have resulted in my lips not feeling crackly and flaky from winter for the first time in months.  And I did that one time, three days ago. This stuff is a real winner!

Shared with Natural Home Challenge Week 4 and: 
Sweet Saturday Link Party, Simply Natural Saturday, Think Pink Sunday, Sunday Show-Off Linky Party, Sunday School Blog Party, One Creative Weekend, The Creative HomeAcre Blog Hop, Just Something I Whipped Up, Creative Bloggers Party Hop, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Create-Craft-Inspire Link Party, Make Your Own Monday, Mealtime Monday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Thank Goodness It's Monday, Nomday Monday, Natural Living Monday, Motivated Monday, Mop It Up Monday, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Monday Funday, Mix It Up Monday, Marvelous Monday, Manic Monday, Made By You Monday, Making Your Home Sing Monday, Craft-O-Maniac Monday, Busy Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, The Gathering Spot Family Table Tuesday, Fat TuesdayHearth & Soul Hop, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Traditions Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Totally Tasty Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, You're Gonna Love It Tuesday, Eco-Kids Tuesday, Tutorial Tuesday, How-To Tuesday, Tuesday Greens, Trick or Treat Tuesday, Living Green Tuesdays, The Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Show & Tell Tuesday, The Creative Spark, Natural Living Link Up, Wow Me Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday, Wicked Awesome Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Whimsy Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Two Girls and a Party, Seasonal Celebration Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Fluster's Creative Muster Party, Down Home Blog Hop, Wonderful Food Wednesday, Wheat Free Wednesday, What's Cooking Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up, Allergy Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Simple Lives Thursday, Creative Juice, HomeAcre Hop, Hookin Up With HoH, Showcase Your Talent, Thank Your Body Thursday, Transformation Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things, Fight Back Friday, Creative Friday, Small Footprint Friday, Show & Tell Friday, Frugal Friday, Friday Favorites, Freedom Fridays, Farm Girl Blog Fest, IHITS DIY Linky Party, What I Am Eating, Simple Meals Friday, Gluten Free Fridays, Fresh Bites Friday, Foodie Friends Friday, Foodie Friday, Simple Living Foodie Friday, Foodtastic Friday                        

Monday, February 25, 2013

February Full Moon WIPocalypse Check-In

This is my February WIPocalypse Check-In - what works-in-progress have I made some progress on?  The WIPocalypse is themed and posts are made on the Full Moon, although only some of my focus matched the themes:

Designer – Little House Needleworks
Project Theme/Style – Love/Family
Focus Colors – White and Red

I haven't yet really looked over all my WIPs - after so many months away from the needle, I wanted a few small finishes under my belt.  No Little House Needleworks designs, however there was this:

Love Notes Scissor Fob
Plum Creek
DMC threads used
 Theme/Style: Love & Family
Focus Colors: Red & White

Love Freebie
Debbie Draper Designs
DMC variegated floss
Theme/Style: Love & Family
Focus Colors: Red & White

Quaker Snowman
Midnight Stitches
DMC and Threadworx

New Start (now a WIP):

 Spring Sampler
Gentle Arts
DMC threads

WIPs (well.. one WIP):

I started the month with this:

and have gotten this far (I've still got a ways to go!):

#6 Midnight Dip
The Stitcherhood
DMC threads

I am proud of my progress this month - I think I'm ready to inventory my old WIPs and get back to work on them.  I love challenges like the WIPocalypse, because they help give me a target to shoot for.

Happy stitching, everyone!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What's Cookin' - Feb 24 - Mar 2

I don't think this past week bore more than a passing resemblance to my planned menu, nor was it particularly inspired (witness the lack of entries!) - sometimes it's just hard to predict mood and opportunity, and it was a mildly difficult week all around.  But we must eat, and this was what we ate:

Sun Feb 17
Mexican Crustless Quiche
(spicy sausage, black olives, cheddar cheese and jalepenos, topped with salsa)

Michael spent the day starting a batch of beer, and I started my bone broth.

Mon Feb 18
Michael ate out with a group of friends - I was sick and skipped dinner.

Tue Feb 19
Bunless Burgers with Lettuce, Tomato and Cheese
Potato Chips (hey, it happens)

Wed Feb 20
Beef Stew with Mushrooms - this was simpler than I'd planned, but still very good.  Some of my newly made bone broth, cubes of chuck roast, some onion and celery and mushrooms, along with some rosemary, thyme and sage, simmered for a couple hours  until the meat was tender.

Thu Feb 21
Leftover Stew with Cauliflower added

Fri Feb 22
Eat out - we were both tired, and this wasn't planned.  We did Mexican and I cheated with a flour tortilla that kept me up all night with acid reflux. I *cannot* cheat with wheat. Period.

Sat Feb 23
Baked Chicken with Parsley-Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Sliced Oranges

Now, this week is the end of the month and we are trying not to spent too much more on groceries until it's March, so we're making do - we are fine on meat, less so on fresh veggies and such.  Here's the plan:

Sun Feb 24
Leftover Chicken
Salad with Orange Slices and Walnuts

Mon Feb 25
Paleo Pancakes

Tue Feb 26
Pork Carnitas
Coconut Flour Tortillas
Salsa and Fixings

Wed Feb 27
Leftover Pork

Thu Feb 28
Cornish Hen
Biscuits (make enough for tomorrow)

Fri Mar 1
Cheeseburger Soup

Sat Mar 2 (Grocery Shop/ Go to Farm for Meat)
Dinner party a friend's house

Shared with: {Gluten Free} Weekly Menu, SusieQTPie's Menu Monday, On The Menu Monday, Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, February 22, 2013

D is for Dreary Days of Winter

Today has been so dreary!  It's one of those days where it seems like the sun never quite rose properly - dark, and grey, and not quite raining. Just dribbling half-frozen sleet.  I can't seem to get warm, because the damp, dark wet is just settling into my bones like pools of stagnant sludge.

We had to head out early this morning to pick up some medication for me, and that was no good way to begin the day - I don't think I've quite gotten unchilled since.

I had a lot of intentions for today - make some bagels (grain-free round breadlike savory shapes,  that is), clean and scrub out the refrigerator, organize and inventory the freezers, finish off the last of my bone broth simmering (with this last batch, they are nicely spongy, and I'm calling it done for now), prepare a large hunk of beef fat to be rendered into tallow.

All too much - too dreary - for such a dark, damp day.  I got the broth done. 

I did clear out the refrigerator of all forgotten detritus that is likely to grow legs and come kill us in our sleep, but I can't bring myself to hunch over, and bend and actually clean in there - tomorrow will be soon enough.  And the freezer? Please - it's freezing cold in there.

Same with handling giant lumps of fat - this is not a project for a day when everything feels cold and damp and gross.

There will be - if not bagels,  then some sort of breadlike substance in some random shape, to go with dinner, assuming dinner actually happens (that chicken isn't thawing out like it ought to - like everything else, it is cold, cold, cold).

This is really the first time I've really felt like this this winter - that it's gone on too long, that it is time for it to be OVER, that it is just simply too dreary to go on, even though we haven't even had that much of a winter here in DC.  But this is how we feel at this time of year, isn't?  The season is growing old and tired, and we are ready for something new and fresh and vibrant.

For today, I'll let my tasks go (but only briefly), and settle down with some warm tea and needlework until my gloom lifts and the sleet stops.  Even Sunna couldn't manage to get through her tasks and shine today - sometimes, you just have to go with it.

Shared with: Pagan Blog Project: Week 8:D

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bone Broth - the Magical Brew of Awesomeness

First, the good news - my new RA drug regimen is working very well - I am experiencing frequent bouts of high energy, and pain stays on the creaky low-end instead of up in the "I just had a piano fall on me" range.

On Sunday, I realized after church that I'd been standing for over an hour without thinking about it.  Just four weeks ago, I was flatly incapable of being on my feet for more than a few minutes - and no more than a minute standing still without excruciating, giant baby-sobs of pain. to that!

My afternoon project was to haul all the various bones I'd been storing in the freezer out to make up a big batch of bone broth.  Every time we visit the farmer where we get our meat, or find another locally sourced provider for quality meat, we pick up a bone or two - they are very inexpensive, so making bone broth is an amazing way to get some high nutrients for a low cost.

Because my health has been so bad, I hadn't made broth in a long time (which is a shame, because I think my health would have improved if I had some!), so we had a big assortment of bones - some marrow bones, some meaty beef  bones, along with a leg of lamb bone and a small free range chicken carcass.  It was too much for my crock pot, so this was done in a big stock pot on the stove.

After putting the bones into the pot, splash them with some apple cider vinegar - I used about 3/4 cup - and let that sit a bit, then cover with water and add veggies if desired. (That is optional, and avoid getting too creative there, unless you know what's likely to make things bitter.  I used some carrot and onion - no celery because we were out, and no garlic because I forgot!  But I've done it with no veggies at all, leaving a very neutral broth that can be seasoned as it is used, and that's fine too.)

I brought all this to a low boil, then turned down to a low simmer for the next 24 hours.

Here's where things went a little bad - my intentions for Monday were to strain the broth, and then we were going out for the evening to have dinner with a group of friends.  All well and good, but as evening approached, I started to feel very ill - too ill to go near the broth, and way too ill to go out to eat.  I sent Michael off without me, and slept for 3 hours.  Then woke up after he got home, moved to the bed and slept another 12 hours.

This morning, I still felt very shaky and headachy - a good 24 hour bug (the downside of my meds is that I am very susceptible to anything that's 'going around'), but decided to try sipping a bit of the broth that was still simmering.

I've had 3 mugsful today, and am feeling human again - just a little sprinkle of sea salt and this is not only a healthy restorative, but also quite rich and delicious!  On a day when I am feeling better, I think I'd have some of this with a dash of hot sauce or a bit of lemon *just because it's awesomely delicious*.

Other than drinking it all up, this batch is destined to be strained and put into jars for the freezer in small batches, to be used in all sorts of recipes.  And  the bones are headed back into the pot to make another batch, repeating the vinegar to help the bones break down and release their minerals into the broth - I'm not sure how many batches I'll get out of my hoard of bones, but in the end I'll have gotten so much broth from them, for so little cost, that it's like having a free food supply that just happens to be insanely good for us, too.

Now, THAT is magical.

Shared with: Family Table Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Traditional TuesdaysYou're Gonna Love It, Eco-Kids Tuesday, Tutorial Tuesday, Tuesday Greens, Trick or Treat Tuesday, Living Green Tuesday, How To Tuesday, Backyard Farming Connection, Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays, Allergy Free Wednesday, Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, What's Cooking Wednesday, The Creative Spark, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Seasonal Celebration, Show & Tell Wednesday, Two Girls & A Party!, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Whimsy Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Wicked Awesome Wednesday, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday Wheat-Free WednesdayWhatever Goes Wednesday, Natural Living Link UpTasty Traditions, Down Home Blog Hop, The HomeAcre Hop, Creative Juice, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Delightfully Inspiring Thursday, DIY Thrifty Thursday, Hookin Up With HoH, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Transformation Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop, Thursdays Treasures, Pennywise Platter, Fight Back Friday, Foodtastic Friday, Foodie Friday, Rattlebridge Farm Foodie Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Gluten-Free Friday, Simple Meals Friday, What I Am Eating, Farm Girl Blog Fest, Freedom Friday, Friday Favorites, Frugal Friday, Show and Tell Friday, No-Rules Weekend Blog Party, Your Great Idea Link Party, A Favorite Thing, Sweet Saturday, Show & Tell Saturday, Simply Natural Saturdays, SHOW-licious Craft Showcase, One Creative Weekend, Creative HomeAcre Hop, Weekend Show Off Party, Think Pink Sunday, Sunday Show Off Linky Party, Sunday School Blog Carnival, Craft - Create - Inspire Linky Party, Make Your Own Monday, Mealtime Monday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, On the Menu Monday, Mondays with Countrified Hicks, Clever Chicks Blog Hop.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What's Cookin - Feb 17 - 23

This past week, we kept meal times pretty simple, and also ate out twice (once on purpose, once because we were too busy to cook).  Otherwise, we mostly managed to stick to the plan, and I even managed to make some cookies.  I snapped a couple photos of my dinner, but never did do any sort of entry about them. Here's what we actually ate:

Poker Day, ran long, so we ate out at Unos (they have a gluten-free menu, by the way)

Taco Salad - lettuce, tomato, olives, avocado,cheese, seasoned ground beef with black beans, salsa. No chips!

Taco Salad
Almond Flour Pancakes
Sauteed Apples and Pears with Walnuts

Roast Chicken with  Lemon and Garlic
Roasted Asparagus
Sliced Avocado and Tomatoes

Roast Chicken and lots of veggies

Thursday: (I had a meeting, Michael cooked)
Leftover Chicken
Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes

I made cookies:
Grain Free Almond Cookies

Grain-Free Almond Cookies

Valentine's Dinner out at McCormick & Schmidt

Broiled Ham Steak
Riced Cauliflower

Also: Making bone broth

Our plan for this coming week:

Sunday, Feb 17:
Cinnamon Beef and Mushroom Stew with Orange Gremolata

Monday, Feb 18:
Pub Moot - Eating Out at Dogfish Head Alehouse

Also: rendering Tallow

Tuesday, Feb 19:
 Pork Carnitas and Fixings
Coconut Flour Tortillas

Wednesday, Feb 20:

Also: Making Ghee

Thursday, Feb 21:
Cornish Hens
Veggies (tbd)
Grain-Free Mini Donuts for Dessert

Friday, Feb 22:
Grain-Free Pizzas

Saturday, Feb 23:
Cole Slaw
Veggies (tbd)

Shared with: {Gluten-Free} Weekly Menu, Menu Monday, Menu Plan Monday, SusieQTpies Menu Plan Monday. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pagan Blog Project: D is for.. Daily Practice

My religious and spiritual ideas tend much more to orthopraxy (practice) than orthodoxy (belief), and it's been that way no matter what religious path I've been on. 

This doesn't mean that I'm great with Daily Practice - just the opposite. I find it very challenging to sustain an act until it becomes habit.  I don't see that challenge to be a bad thing - in my experience, making a conscious choice to engage in some sort of daily practice and pushing through the inclination to let it slide has all sorts of spiritual and mundane benefits to it, whether that practice involves a prayer of some kind, a ritual of some sort, a pause to meditate, a daily walk, a daily divinatory reading, or whatever habit one might come up with that allows one to ground, center and focus contemplatively on where they are in connection with the universe, their gods, or the sacred in whatever form it takes for them.

Since Yule, I've begun a daily practice of centered around my "hearth" - a small shrine in the kitchen that holds a statue depicting Frige (an Anglo-Saxon goddess who is the deity of my hearth), a bell (it's a sleigh bell on a the end of a wand), an oil lamp that acts as the hearth flame, an incense holder, and a leaf shaped dish  that holds offerings.  Sometimes, there are additional offerings, such as flowers, a libation, chocolates...

Everyday, before the evening meal preparation begins, I chime  the bell, then I light a stick of incense, use it to light the oil lamp, while saying a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to Frige. 

A bit later, when I am dishing up our meal, the first portion goes into the offering dish and set on the altar with another prayer, asking that she accept her portion as a 'gift for a gift'.

Lastly, after dinner, I pray a third time, this time requesting her aid in protecting our home, and blessing it with love, and kindness to one another, and that she stay with us throughout the night - and then put out the lamp for the evening.  The offering is left on the shrine until bedtime, and then set outside.

It took a good while not to feel self-conscious, or to wonder if this was a good practice or something 'silly', but that's gone away - it's my daily practice, it has become habit, and it is meaningful to me. As I contemplate Frige's qualities - organizational skills, domestic arts, managerial horsesense, being  the "Keeper of the Keys" - and of the peace, I am reminded daily to take my domestic tasks seriously, reminded that I, too, can choose to act in a way that leads to peace and harmony in the home rather than sowing discord.  It reminds me that the act of putting together a meal isn't jus a task to be got through, but something deeply important that is at the heart of our home.

My commitment is to do this until next Yule - but I suspect that by then the very idea of not doing it will be unthinkable to me.

Shared with Pagan Blog Project and cross-posted to The Cauldron Born.

Theme-a-licious Figural February Mid-month Check In

It's Geek To Me is hosting a year long themed cross-stitch project called Theme-a-licious, with a different challenge each month, as well as a different mini-challenge ornament subject.  My RA hadn't yet let up enough to participate in January, so this is my first month playing along.

February's challenge is Figural February: "Who are the people in your neighborhood...your WIP neighborhood, that is? Give your people-populated projects some face time this month."

I have no shortage of long-neglected WIPs (works in progress), but not many of t hem actually have people in them - I started rooting through my WIP bag(s), until I came across this one:

A few of these stitches are new, but this is pretty much where I left things off several months ago.  This is The Stitcherhood's "Midnight Dip" being worked on some light blue 28ct Monoco (because my Midnight Dip has turned into a High Noon Dip), using DMC colors as listed, with the only other change being that I decided to stitch in the fish using variagated orange floss (DMC 106) instead of leaving them as unstitched silhouettes.  I'll be focusing on this through the second half of the month, and I hope I get a good ways into being done with it.

The ornament challenge was to make something featuring snowmen or snow-women.  My choice was a 2008 freebie (I don't think it's available anymore) from Midnight Stitching called Snowman's Quaker Christmas.  This was done on a pale blue 28ct linen (it was a scrap, so I don't know the brand), and instead of using the called for Gentle Arts threads, I used a variagated green floss (from Threadworx, but I've lost the wrap!), and DMC floss for the remainder.  The white snowman's head was disappearing into the background, so I elected to backstitch outline it.

So that's one ornament down for next Christmas!

Shared with Theme-a-licious Figural February Check-In.

Grain-Free Almond Cookies

Michael and I postponed our Valentines Day until today - we're eating out tonight.  Last night was entirely taken up with my monthly Board meeting at our UU church.  These meetings are always packed full of agenda items, and run 2 hours without fail - last night's went 2 1/2 hours. We got a lot of important decisions made, but even at that we dropped a few items off the list until next month, and by the time I got home, we were eating leftover roast chicken and veggies at 10:00 pm.

Earlier in the day, though, I had a little burst of energy (nice to get those back!) and cleared out the kitchen cupboards, wiped them down with my All-Purpose Cleaner, tossed expired food items and the last remnants of processed foods (especially those containing wheat), and organizing the rest - I think I managed to reclaim at least half the space after several months of declaring how much I hated how little space we had and how much we 'needed' another pantry solution.

What's left in there now are just a few cans (coconut milk, black olives, green chiles, canned tomato products, and some unsweetened canned fruit are all that's left), pretty much no boxed items, some non-refrigered baking supplies, packages of dried fruit and nuts, and tea. Lots and lots of tea varieties, because I have become slightly obsessed with tea lately.  The rest of our food supplies live in the refrigerator and freezer, including the almond and coconut flour that has replaced my wheat flours.

After that was done, I made up a batch of cookies - I wanted to try a very simple recipe, to get a feel for how it might work as a base for variations, and I think it does fine.  Unlike regular cookie dough, this seems to need to be 'squished' together to form balls, and the finished result is more crumbly - I think that is simply an aspect of working with nut flours that have no elasticity from gluten.  Other than that, though, they were very tasty and I think could easily be jazzed up with some dark chocolate chips, chopped nuts, raisins, a bit of cocoa added, or whatever one might like.  Depressing the middle instead of using a fork to flatten would also turn these into a good thumbprint cookie to be filled with jam or lemon curd or the like.

The best part - as long as you're ok with the sugar from the honey, this is simply good for you food - nuts and coconut oil! So you can enjoy without worry.

Here's the recipe - see how many ways  you might jump off from here:

Grain-Free Almond Cookies
(makes 18 cookies)

2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt
4 Tblsp coconut oil
8 Tblsp raw honey (or maple syrup, or other liquid sweetener)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the coconut oil if it's solid, and combine with the honey and vanilla in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together the almond flour, baking soda, and sea salt, breaking up any clumps (I use a large whisk to do this).  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine.  It may still feel 'crumbly' rather than come together - try to squish a small ball together and if it doesn't hold, you may need to add just a little more coconut oil and honey to the mix.

Shape into small balls, about the size of a walnut, and place on a cookie sheet that's been covered with a sheet of parchment paper.  These cookies do not spread, so use a fork, your finger, or the bottom of a glass to flatten them.

Bake at 325F for about 8 minutes, until slightly browned. 


Shared with: What I Am Eating, Simple Meals Friday, Gluten-Free Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Foodie Friday, Simple Living Foodie Friday, Fight Back Friday, Foodtastic Friday, Show and Tell Friday, Frugal Friday, Freedom Fridays, Farm Girl Friday, LHITS DIY Linkie, Get Real Frugal Friday, No Rules Weekend Party, Your Great Idea Link Party, A Favorite Thing, One Creative Weekend, Sweet Saturday Link Party, Show & Tell Saturday, Simply Natural SaturdayGet Schooled Saturday, Weekend Show Off, Think Pink Sunday, Sunday Show Off Linky Party, Sunday School Blog Party, Craft - Create - Inspire, Creative HomeAcre Hop, Just Something I Whipped Up, Busy Monday, Mop It Up Monday, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, My Meatless Mondays, On the Menu Monday, Mom's Test Meal Monday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Mealtime Monday, Make Your Own Monday, Mop It Up Monday, Mix It Up Monday, Marvelous Monday, Monday Funday, Make Your Home Sing Monday, Make It Yourself Monday, Made By You Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Craft-O-Maniac Monday, Nomday Monday, Natural Living Monday, Motivated Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Family Table Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Traditional Tuesdays, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Backyard Farming Connection, Trick or Treat Tuesday, Tuesday Greens, Tutorial Tuesday, You're Gonna Love It Tuesday, Eco-Kids Tuesday, How To Tuesday.
Foodie Friends Friday Cookie Party.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Basic Hard Water Household Cleaner

My go-to resource for non-toxic household cleaners is Annie Berthold-Bond's book "Better Basics for the Home".  This book is packed full of homemade non-toxic techniques and formulas for home, body and pet care products.

Most of the ingredients are easily found, utilizing safe, sustainable products, herbs, essential oils and the like, and are truly frugal alternatives to chemical-laden commercial products.  Best of all, these work.  Almost every formula comes with a few variations for scent, antiseptic qualities, alterations according to the specific issues one might be dealing with, such as hard water, and Ms. Bond also takes the time to explain in easy to understand terms what the science is behind each recipe - why one might choose one ingredient over another, which means that this isn't jus a recipe book - it's a great  textbook of non-toxic living principles.

A lot of what's in here is so simple, you might feel like you already knew it - perhaps, like me, you had a mother who was doing this before it was trendy, because it's what her mother  taught her.  And perhaps like me, you forgot how easy it was until you try it for yourself.

Know what my favorite quote from this book is?  Her first suggestion for dealing with odors (a great many recipes follow):  "Open a window."  That is the sort of common sense you get here - favor easy over hard, non-formulary over complex recipe, and move on from there.

Here at our house, we have very hard water, so I tend to use her Acid-Based All Purpose Cleaner for most things - this cuts through mineral deposits and soap scum, and it tackles body fluids well (pets, meat juice, etc).  I use it in my kitchen and bathroom, and it allows me to clean without undue scrubbing ('elbow grease' with arthritic elbows is no fun!). 

Acid-Based All-Purpose Cleaner

1/4 c distilled white vinegar
1/2 t. Detergent
3/4 c warm water
up to 1 tsp. Antiseptic essential oil if desired*

Put in spray bottle and shake - use on counters, sinks, shower. For areas in need of heavy cleaning, let it sit a few minutes before wiping up.  This can store in a spray bottle indefinitely.

Liquid soap can be used in place of detergent, but for really hard water, detergent does a better job of cutting through mineral deposits without leaving soap scum.

*antiseptic essential oils:  thyme, sweet orange, lemongrass, rose, clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, birch, lavender, tea tree

Shared with: Natural Home Challenge Week 2
The Gathering Spot, Motivated Monday, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Mop It Up Monday, Mondays with Countrified HicksMarvelous MondaysMake Your Home Sing Monday, Make It Yourself Monday, Made By You Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday, Backyard Farming Connection Blog HopTuesday Greens, Eco-Kids Tuesday,
Works For Me Wednesday, Wicked Awesome Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Whimsy Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Show & Tell Wednesday, Seasonal Celebration Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Wow Me Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Two Girls and a Party,
Thursdays Treasures, Thursday Favorite Things, Transformation Thursday, Thrifty Thursday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Hookin Up with HoH, HomeAcre Hop, DIY Thrifty Thursday, Creative Juice, Simple Lives Thursday, Keep It Real Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Show and Tell Friday, Frugal Friday, Friday Favorites, Freedom Friday, Fresh Bites Friday.