A few things have happened!

November 15, 2011

Earlier this year I gave up blogging. I was enjoying reading other blogs more than I was enjoying keeping my own. I have to admit to comparing myself to other writers and feeling a bit overwhelmed by what may be expected here. I forgot that this is for my own joy and well being, as much as it is for anyone else. I have always been compelled to write and if these words don’t appear here, they will appear somewhere. I think this is a great place to come back to and share the latest phase of our journey.

Something very exciting has happened since I last wrote:

I have gotten huge! Hmm…I wonder what that’s about? Guess we will find out in February! ;) Just kidding! You know I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

We also feel pretty blessed to have discovered this in our price range:

The other pictures didn’t turn out so well, so you will just have to imagine our little farm house for now. We sealed the deal a little over a month ago and now we are (slowly) setting up house. The place feels huge after living in our tiny apartment above the garage. It’s also not much more than what we were paying for rent, but don’t let that fool you. There are a lot of up-front costs with home ownership! I’m still loving every bit of it though!

We have been really busy, I guess! I hope you will excuse my little sabbatical. I can’t wait to start sharing all the things I have saved up! Feel free to lend us some advice in the comments and let me know what you have been up to!

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Sweet Cabbage

March 17, 2011

Last night our church had a St. Patrick’s Day inspired pot luck! All of the dishes were amazing and of course there were the traditional corned beef, cabbage, and potato dishes! I brought along a pot of sweet cabbage and true to Irish staples, the dish only cost about $1 to make!

This recipe goes way back. My grandmother would make this all the time, with franks or kielbasa. We always called it sauerkraut because that was the main ingredient. The first time I served this to my husband with hot dogs, he laughed at me. He absolutely loved it but he said we had to call it something else. The main ingredient has since changed from the canned stuff to a head of cabbage, but I will provide instructions for both methods.

Ingredients:

One head of cabbage, shredded or chopped
Half an onion, chopped (optional)
Oil (I use a combination of olive, coconut, and butter)
Caraway seeds
Balsamic Vinegar (or apple cider vinegar but it will taste different)
Raw sugar (refined sugar is fine too)
Salt

I coat the bottom of a large stew pot in oil and heat on medium. Then I add the cabbage, stirring frequently to coat with oil, for about 15 minutes. The raw cabbage takes up a lot of space, but it cooks down to about 2 qts. While this is cooking I heat a cup of water with about an 1/8 a cup of raw sugar, and 1/2 a tsp. of salt in the microwave to dissolve. To this I also add about 2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar so the color of the water is as dark as molasses. Then I pour this mixture over the cabbage, along with plenty of caraway seeds, stir it in and cover for 10 minutes until the cabbage is soft. I always taste before serving, adding more salt, sugar, or balsamic as preferred.

To make it with canned sauerkraut you first drain and rinse 2 cans worth. Then you bring to a boil in just enough water to cover, and drain and rinse again. The cabbage is already cooked so no frying is necessary, making this a low-fat alternative if you like. From here you add the water, sugar, salt, balsamic mixture and caraway seeds. Bring to a boil and then taste for any last minute additions.

My grandmother makes it by rinsing the brine solution off the sauerkraut, then boiling it with brown sugar. That’s it! There are so many ways to make this your own!

I have since tried real sauerkraut. I’m not a fan, but that may change when I get my hands on a recipe! I’m looking forward to starting some fermenting projects when the weather warms up a bit. What about you? Do you like sauerkraut? If not, I think you will really appreciate this alternative.

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Lent

March 8, 2011

There is a blanket of fear spreading over our world. It is turning people against each other in violence, injustice, and hate. You may say that this is nothing new but I feel it growing, infecting my country, my community, my friends. I have taken to crying when I read the news and political blogs; and then I pray.

Maybe you have felt it too.

Lent begins tomorrow. It continues for 46 days, until Saturday, April 23rd. The 6 Sundays are for the celebration of the Lord’s day, making Lent a season of 40 days. Lent can be observed in so many ways. In the past I have enjoyed approaching it like New Year’s for the soul. I like setting goals for my spiritual growth and aspiring to change for the better. Another approach to lent is to pray, fast, and give alms (charity). Given the current climate of fear and hostility growing around us, I think this is the perfect time for a season of petition and spiritual growth.

I lack the expertise to share with you the connection between prayer, fasting, and alms giving, but I have found the following links to be very helpful.

What is the connection between prayer and fasting?
What does the Old Testament say about fasting in vain?
What does the New Testament say about fasting?
Why do we care about the poor?

Want to read what other bloggers are saying about Lent? Feel free to link up in the comments.

I Don’t Believe in Giving Up Pizza for Lent by Kitchen Stewardship
Recreation, Schedules, and Lent by The Local Cook
I will add your link here!


Basic Corn Bread

February 28, 2011

Corn bread is an excellent way to turn a paltry meal into a feast. With a little butter and honey it even becomes a great dessert. The following recipe was a total success and hails from the More-with-Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. I should warn you: this is real corn bread. It comes complete with a wholesome flavor and texture that is unmatched by any cake mix sold in stores.

Basic Corn Bread:

1 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour (whole wheat)
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 c. dry milk powder (optional; didn’t use)

2 eggs
1 c. milk (or milk substitute)
1/4 c. oil

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then combine. Pour into greased 9 X 9 pan and bake 25 minutes. Serve hot with meal; or butter, honey, milk or syrup.

What do you like with your corn bread?

I have a problem: I love to cook! The more complicated the better. Batch cooking: my specialty. Canning: my hobby. I make a mess and leave a pile of dishes in my wake. This is compounded by the fact that we have a tiny kitchen and no dishwasher to speak of. Or I should say, we didn’t have a dishwasher! Maybe we are dreamers but we saw space for one. We asked the landlord if we could install one and he agreed.

A new dishwasher was not in our budget so Seth started shopping the ads for a used one in good condition. Many people remodel their homes and update their appliances to match the new decor. Brushed steel dishwashers are all the rage and the white or black models are out. Many people looking to update their dishwasher will advertise the old one on Craigslist or donate it. One of the places these gently used appliances end up is in a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. This is where we got lucky. Seth found a Kenmore elite in excellent condition for $30. The big question was, “Does it work?” The sales person assured him that he could return it for store credit if he wasn’t satisfied.

The tricky part was the installation. Our apartment was not wired for a dishwasher so our landlord helped Seth hardwire it into the circuit breaker. The plumbing was pretty straightforward though. It took two evenings and the installation was complete!

I was away taking care of my grandmother all week. I came home to the most delightful surprise! Now I can be a good hostess and visit more with my guests. No more hiding dishes in the oven either! I can keep the sink from piling up and cook to my hearts content!

Back to my point: The ReStore is a great find. They sell used and surplus building materials to help the environment and raise money for Habitat for Humanity. Need a new carpet? Sink? Washer and dryer? How about cabinets? Patio furniture? A dining set? If your nearest ReStore is a few hours away, maybe it’s worth the carpool. Get a truck and a few friends and support Habitat for Humanity!

Click here to find your nearest ReStore.

What are your favorite thrift store finds? We’re you able to find a ReStore near you? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Homemade Toothpaste

January 6, 2011

I ran out of toothpaste this morning. It must have missed the list. I just went to the store yesterday and spent all I wanted to spend for the week too. This was my favorite kind of challenge: making do! I must say I had more fun than most people probably would have concocting my own toothpaste recipe!

For emergency toothpaste all you really need is baking soda and water. It even says so on the box! The taste is tolerable if you really want to get your teeth clean, but I’m not that hardcore about my hygiene!

To improve the taste you’re going to want something minty and a sweetener. I would really caution against using a natural sugar to brush your teeth! I used stevia, peppermint extract, and Tom’s mouthwash. This really improved the flavor, but if you’re not used to a natural toothpaste, like Tom’s, it will take some getting used to.

The next step is completely optional. I wanted to make the paste more effective at actually cleaning my teeth. Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps claim to have 18 in 1 uses, one of which is making toothpaste. So I added a few drops of their fragrance free brand to my paste. Yummy! I also added two drops of tea tree oil for it’s antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. This required a bit more stevia and peppermint extract to round out the flavor but what I ended up with was a very Tom’s-like paste I will actually use!

Disclaimer: I am not a dentist and I have no idea what one would say about the long-term use of this concoction. All I know is my mouth feels fresh and my teeth feel clean!

 

I love this time of year! Many people are starting the new year with renewed focus and goals to enrich their lives. I feel so inspired and motivated by all this positive energy! Every day I read someone’s New Year’s Resolution, and think, “Me too!” Here are a few that I think I can keep with a little help from the internet.

Read The Bible Chronologically: I’m not a fan of rereading books. I already know what happens! This one should be an exception to the rule. I know the story hasn’t changed but I have and my understanding and the associations I make are bound to be very different now. The One Year Bible website is a great resource for anyone joining this challenge.

Yoga and Swimming: Every year I have pledged to get in shape. This year I am reckoning with my asthma and choosing activities I enjoy for personal fulfillment. There are many great Yoga tutorials on YouTube, and Yoga Today offers a free class every week. They also offer classes for as little as $4.

The Happiness Project: This is really a series of goals leading to a more fulfilling life. Start your own Happiness Project here.

Minimize and Organize: I don’t have to organize things if I can get rid of them! For everything else this site is sure to help.

Take the GRE: I have been putting off grad school because I am so scared of this test. The GRE guide books only served to increase my anxiety. Maybe an online class could help me?

Live More With Less: Living on less, with more concern for the environment and social justice is a lifelong goal of ours. This year I want to help others with this resolution. Starting with a series on economical cooking for beginners, we will approach many of the subjects Doris Janzen Longacre was passionate about and share our own experiences trying to improve our impact. For more inspiration check out The Local Cook’s Simple Living Challenge.

Here are a few more excellent articles to help make your goals a reality this year:
5 Questions To Help You Make Effective New Year’s Resolutions by Gretchen Rubin
Creating a plan for that resolution by The Simple Dollar

And for those No New Year’s Resolutions folks there’s:
Achieving, without Goals from Zen Habits