Friday, November 25, 2011


Although we are all thinking of and planning Christmas presents, none of our latest crafts have been for Christmas so I can still share them here. 

Yesterday was our last day of Zumba.  The community league offered 10 sessions over 10 weeks, and Laura, Beth and I learned to dance and had fun with our 68-year-old instructor.  Her energy was inspirational, for sure, and I thanked her for her patience with us by making this necklace for her. 

We'll be hiring her for another session in the spring, but until then a small group of us will be exercising to videos.  I need "buddies" to motivate me to keep up.  Together, we've exercised at least twice a week and we don't want to lose the momentum.  I still have a Spa Lady membership, but I've only gone twice this fall because we have found other things to do.  The late snow this year was great for outdoor exercise.  That season is over for now though. 

And today Beth and I discovered how inspiring a day off of school and an hour or two in a fabric store can be.

After a session of interviews with her teachers (who were all terribly impressed with her brilliance!), Beth designed and made her first article of clothing today - a $2 t-shirt.   Sometimes sewing doesn't pay, but this time it did. 

Only a 12 year old can wear horizontal stripes.

I found some beautiful fabrics for a bag for my older sister.  I had to say that kind of publicly to make sure I make it before I lose steam.  Someone keep me accountable!

And I saw some beautiful fabric for another bag that I promised a friend months ago. 

This is the bag that comes with the standard Scrabble game. 

Gorgeous, yes?  Well, no, but it works.  Ours does, but I managed to melt and burn a friend's bag this summer in a terrifying camping accident.  Sarcasm  is tough in print.  Try burning one of these bags sometime.  It does a very unsatisfying smolder without bursting into flame at any point.  I suppose that's a  good thing, but it still didn't leave a bag that you'd want to use anymore.  

I'll be sending this in the mail.  It's pretty, but I wouldn't recommend burning it either.  I suspect it might melt too.  It's pretty with a bit of shiny bling, so it still beats the old bag hands down. 

Now I just have to get it into the mail.  Hopefully that won't take a couple of months.  Anonymous reader, I'm hoping the subtle photography will make me accountable on this little task.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gifts on my mind

I think it's a bit unfair that I expect other bloggers to blog every day.  Or every other day, at least.  I love to have new things to read.

I don't always have anything new to write though. 

I've been thinking about Christmas gifts a lot lately.  Last weekend I sat with Rosa at a table at a craft sale selling all sorts of things that we had made.  I had hoped that our first snow would make people think of Christmas, but it didn't.  People were still shopping for themselves.  The vendors seemed to buy the most stuff from each other.  I sold a few necklaces, and a few more on commission, and I spent just as much at the other booths.

We did sign up for one more craft sale though and I've been busy sewing up a few things for it.  I think people will be thinking of gifts by the time December comes. 

Because I try to make most of our gifts (and so do the girls), I've been seriously thinking about the presents I want to make.  Most involve the use of my sewing machine, but I've got a few other skills as well.

I have nothing to show you here because I've started a new blog just for my sale items.  A couple of people suggested that I hand out cards directing them to my blog and sell things from there.  I hope to have it all set up well before the next sale, but you can look at it now. 

         homemade by ev     (there's a new link at the top of my page too)

I've also been dreaming up ideas for the girls at Sew, Mama, Sew.   I rarely visit there during the year, but every November they do a daily gift list with tutorials.  If you haven't been there yet this November you can spend some time catching up.  It's great fun and has a ton of good, easy ideas.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New toy

I don't mind having kitchen toys if I use them.  I thought my pasta maker might become one of those unused toys, but I've made lots of pasta with it.  Especially since I have yet to see gluten free lasagna on any store shelf. 

This current new toy cost more than I think I will use though, so I only bought one quarter of it.   Rosa and two other deer hunters will own the other three quarters.

I don't know though.  Today's little experiment was really exciting.  I know it's odd to get excited about squeezing raw meat and seasonings into pig intestines, but it was awesome.  And I don't aspire to normality.

I had defrosted some chicken for last night, but last night's supper went a little differently than planned.  Yvon had a meeting I'd forgotten about and, while I escorted one child to piano lessons, there was no one to cook supper at home.  Tuna from a can dumped into my pre-made salad sufficed and satisfied most food groups and hungry tummies in a rush. 

Anyway, the Power Fist box sat in our hallway for over a week taunting me.  "Try me, try me!" it whispered every day.  Fine.  Raw chicken that had to be used, casings in the fridge waiting for a bigger sausage-making day to happen, some pork fat waiting for the same.  It looked like I had everything I needed. 

Although I had borrowed the KitchenAid attachments to grind the fat and meat, I wanted to try it with my own tools if possible.  My ancient cast iron meat grinder worked just fine.  It's maybe coarser than the KitchenAid grinder, but I don't mind that. 

The last time we made sausages, we used the KitchenAid attachment which injected a lot of air in the casings and required two people with constant vigilance.  I can't say I enjoyed the stuffing part of the process.  However, the Power Fist didn't break one casing, I had only a couple of air bubbles to pop, and I did it easily by myself while twisting the links.  I thought maybe I'd have to wait until the kids came home to help, but it wasn't hard to manage.

Before I forget, here's the recipe I used.  You can do it yourself without putting it into casings.  It's a tasty mixture made into patties too.  I ended up with enough stuck in the sausage tube to have a bit for lunch.  

Rosemary Chicken Sausages

2 lbs chicken             (I used deboned thighs)
1/2 lb pork fat           (dirt cheap from your favourite butcher)
1/2 cup dried apples
3 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp pepper
1/2 Tbsp salt          
1 Tbsp chopped dry rosemary
1 cup powdered skim milk
Bit of ice water (maybe 1/4 cup?)

Grind the meat and fat together.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients, except the water.  Re-grind the mixture.  Using your stand mixer or by hand, knead the whole mess together, adding water to make it a soft, stringy consistency.  Fry a small patty to see if you're happy with the seasonings.  I was.

Rinse the casing in cold water and gently feed it onto the sausage stuffer tube.  Tie a knot in the casing.  Load up the sausage press and slowly start to fill the casing.  The first one is where most of the air went, so I popped the first sausage with a sharp knife to let it escape.  Apparently a natural casing self-heals, so you aren't left with a hole-y sausage.  Keep going, holding back the casing so it doesn't feed too fast.  Knot the end, pop any holes and twist your links. 

I don't know if any of you will ever make sausage, but if you do and have questions, I can go into more detail one-on-one.  I know almost all of you on a phone-call basis. 

Next time I'll plan ahead and have some dried apricots to include like the original recipe included.  Or maybe cranberries would be good.  The sweetness of the apples is good, but there wasn't enough of it to really notice. 

Maybe I'll use the sausage stuffer more often.  For reference sake, it took about 1 1/2 hours to make it, although making more would not have added too much time.  A lot of the time was setting up and reading the manual, searching for a recipe, and cleaning up the tools after.  My next sausage venture will be 15 pounds of pork sausage with a friend.  I can't wait to do it again!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Processing blahs

I've still got apples in the basement going bad (I hate wasting food!) and tomatoes in bins and in the freezer that I'd prefer to be in jars. 

However, I'm feeling done.  I don't feel like boiling the big canner up again.  I think I'm just going to use them as they are and if some go bad, so be it.  I've got the processing blahs.

On the other hand, I'm hoping to try making sausage again tomorrow with a friend.  That's a totally different process though, and I'm excited to do that.  I now own 25% of a sausage stuffer, so I hope to get better at it and do it more often. It will probably get it's own post later.

When I was complaining to a friend about my lack of tomatoes this year...No, that's not quite right.  I was complaining that I had a lot of small tomatoes that would never fill 50 pints and that's what I figure we use in a year.    Anyway, the subject of cooking came up.  She couldn't imagine how I would use all those tomatoes. 

"What do you cook that uses so many tomatoes?" She asked.

"Umm,  chilli, spagahetti, stew... I don't know exactly.  I just know they get used and we like them."

I don't think well on my feet.  We don't eat that much chilli.  I just have clear visions of opening jar after jar of tomatoes over the winter and dumping them in "stuff".  What is that "stuff" though? 

This week I decided to get back to menu planning and dutifully wrote out my meals for the week before shopping.  It made shopping easier and I don't think about food all day wondering what I'm making each night.

Lasagna, taco salad with salsa, a lentil stew, chicken quesadillas (with salsa again) and hamburgers.  Hmmm, tomatoes with five of the meals.  Question answered.  I love to put tomatoes in everything.

I'm down to this bin (and the bottom is now visible) and one more like it.  They are ripening faster than I'd like this year, but they won't go to waste.  Instead of painfully peeling, boiling and processing them, I'm just using them fresh.  Clean them, stick them in the Magic Bullet and put in the fridge until I need them, saving some for fresh salsa, hamburgers and eggs.  I don't cook fancy schmancy stuff, so I don't mind the seeds and the peels aren't noticable to mean once whizzed in the Bullet.

On the other hand, I probably do have to do something more deliberate with those apples or just admit defeat and throw them out.  Last year the kids "went off" applesauce, but it seems to be a popular lunch choice again this year.  That means dragging out the processor.  Poo.  I just can't wrap my head around the idea of throwing them in the compost bin.  Life would be easier if I could.