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Archive for November, 2012

While reading Xan’s post yesterday about the benefits of being frugal, I started to think about how different a lot of our Christmas decorations are compared to most other people we know.  While we have purchased a few things, a majority of our holiday decor is inherited, hand made, bought on clearance at the end of the season, or a “treasure” taken from trash that belonged to someone else!  I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you.

It’s big, and I’ve not seen anything like it,  but it’s one of my absolute favorite Christmas decorations.  We inherited this beauty from the husband’s Nanny several years ago…

Another decoration high on my favorites list is my grandma’s nativity set.  While I would prefer a Willow Tree nativity (as far as looks go, it’s much more my style), this one holds a great deal of sentimental value.  There are definitely a  few chips and nicks on these figures, and one of the wise men is missing a hand.  We just say it adds character!

We have received many handmade gifts and decorations over the years, but one of my favorites is this set of stockings.  A very kind lady from church made these as a wedding gift for us.  What a thoughtful gift.

Now, here is the disclaimer for the rest of this post…. the husband has some decorating favorites of his own!  He is all about the cheese factor.  He has been an avid Coca Cola memorabilia collector for as long as I’ve known him.  Several of “his” decorations have literally been saved from the trash.  We have a few of these grocery store cardboard “Santa Coke” advertisements scattered throughout the house.


While I was off on maternity leave with #2 (during the holiday season), the husband picked up a job cleaning a few banks in the area.  He found this “treasure” in the trash… new and in the box!  It was several years old, but had never been taken out of the box.   So of course it came home with him.

This sign is proudly displayed next to his full size leg lamp from “A Christmas Story” every year.  I will spare you that picture!  Another image I will leave to your imagination is the massive amount of garland he has strung all over the place.  It was all bought for pennies on the dollar at after Christmas clearance sales.

While we obviously have two distinctly different styles in decorating our home for the holidays, we make it work with a little compromise here and there (I decorate part of the house, he decorates the other).  The boys love it, and will always have great memories to share as they get older.  Best of all we spent little to no $$$ on any of it (except the leg lamp)!

How do you decorate your home for the holidays?

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Frugal

I spent the afternoon altering pants for my “foster mother” Lynn, who is battling cancer and finds herself with fingers so tender she can’t hold a needle.

Lynn found these pants at her favorite thrift store. Two pairs of corduroys, brand new from all appearances. Total cost: $6.

Not that I needed much teaching, but Lynn taught me a lot about stretching a dollar. She’s how I learned to appear well off on a poor to middling salary. How we sent our kids to private schools and small liberal arts colleges with next to no loans.  It isn’t hard. It’s just a matter of stuff, or really of understanding how little stuff you need, and how much stuff that you do need can be gleaned from other people’s discards. So we do a lot of thrift store shopping, home-making of food and clothes, dumpster diving and other staples of a frugal lifestyle.

I’ve never been one of those people that hunts down bargains. (Talk to my brother in law, who once drove 30 miles to buy milk at $1.59 a gallon. In his defense he bought enough for everyone, and I mean everyone.) I don’t clip coupons, mostly because they tend to be for name-brand extras that I don’t use anyway.

We make a decent living. Yes, we’re trying to put two kids through college with cash (one down, one to go), so that takes every dime of discretionary money, but the point is, we have discretionary money. If I buy an extra skirt, it’s not going to put our mortgage in arrears.

Here at the start of the holiday season, it’s important to remember how your consumption affects the planet. Think about every plastic toy, every extra tchotchkie, every brand new candy dish that you buy for your mother-in-law because you have never had the slightest idea what to get her. Every single thing you buy that you don’t need ends up in a land fill, depletes the precious resource of fossil fuels, and adds pollution to the air, not to mention that you’re running out of storage space. Give your loved ones things they’ll use, not just piles of empty promises. Resist the pressure to buy more and more and more.

It isn’t hard to be frugal. In fact, it takes more effort to spend money. Go to the store, go to the mall, stop off on the way home. Even entering all that initial info for “one click shopping” on line is often more effort than I’m willing to put in for something that I don’t need.

Which gives hope for everyone. If you’re not naturally frugal, and you’ve got money to spend, you can still avoid the beast just by remembering that shopping is a pain in the ass.

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If you have been reading my personal blog, by now, you must realize my love for all things “Zucchini!” Even though I have only talked about the sweet treats I make with zucchini, I must admit I could could do without the sweet things all together and go all out for savory! By far, the easiest way for us to go through zucchini fast is to simply grill it.

Back when the zucchini were ready to harvest I was leaving town so I shredded the first few and stuck them in the freezer. Those bags still sit there waiting to be used. When I returned form my trip I started using the fresh zucchini and one of the first thing I made were these Zucchini “Things.” I have no idea what to call them, so “things” was the answer.

I used a recipe I have for Zucchini “Crab” Cakes (or zucchini fritters) and started playing around. What came out of that was Zucchini “Things.” I made a few batches of these and LOVED them every time. I am not big on measuring ingredients, so each batch tasted a bit different, but that was fine.

Here is the measurements of what I did (and I hope they turn out for you too!):

  • 2 1.2 cups of shredded/grated zucchini
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • chopped onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cups shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
  • 2 1/2 T cornmeal

I filled the mini muffin cups full.

Bake at 350F for 17 minutes (in mini muffin tins.) You would have to vary the time if you used the regular size muffin tins. I also imagine you could forgo the muffin tin completely and just plop some scoops on a cookie sheet, flatten them a bit if you want to and bake that way.

Right now, for me, it is all about saving time, but I DO know that you can fry these in the fry pan on your stove top and have good results too.  In your hands, you can form them in to small patties or just spoon some into fry pan and flatten with spatula. Depending on the length of time you fry them, you can get a crispy crust on them.

I posted about the Zucchini “Crab” Cakes yesterday on my personal log. Head over there to get the recipe.

Other Zucchini posts:

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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On Thursday, we’ll indulge in the great American celebration of excess that is Thanksgiving. It’s a strange week to be thinking about thrift and frugality.

On the other hand, we’re already well into the annual assault on our senses that is the holiday advertising season, when we learn how desperately we need a lot of shit that we don’t need, not to mention how buying it is the only way to prove to your family and friends that you love them. It’s particularly grating in my family, as my husband is a choral musician, and there’s nothing like a holiday ad for mangling great works of choral literature.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Although it celebrates consumption and indulgence, a big part of that indulgence is the immersion in family, in thankfulness, in tradition, in things made, and not just things consumed.

So many of the best family memories focus on Thanksgiving. My friend Terry’s amazement that I whipped my potatoes by hand. It never occurred to me to use a beater, and I still don’t like to. I think it makes the potatoes gluey. Watching the kids slowly turn their focus from childish to adult, as one by one, they stopped leaving the adult conversation after the meal. My annual fight with everyone else in the family over canned cranberry sauce which we never ever ever (ever) had until about 4 years ago, and which everyone now insists is a “tradition.” Did I mention that we NEVER had this before? Ever. I must have been having Thanksgiving in some alternate universe, because I’m pretty sure I was making this cranberry sauce every damn year for decades.

World’s Best Cranberry Chutney (From the old Sphere magazine)
1 lb cranberries (these used to come in 16 oz bags, now they’ve reduced bag size to 12 oz, so just deal)
1 cup white sugar*
1/2 c. packed brown sugar*
1/2 c. golden raisins
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup water
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped apple (Granny Smiths)
1/2 c. chopped celery

Simmer cranberries, sugar, raisins and spices in 1 cup water, uncovered, in a saucepan over medium heat, just until the cranberries release their juice (about 15 minutes). Keep heat low, and stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Can be served warm or cold. I think it’s best when made the day before and stored in the fridge, then served at room temperature for the actual meal.

* if you don’t want to use sugar, substitute 1 cup honey and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. You’ll need to simmer it a little longer due to the excess liquid.

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Indulgence can be a profane act of excess for the sake of excess, or it can be a sacred meal, shared with the ones you love most. You can consume for consumption’s sake, or in celebration of life’s sweetness.  Consumption can be extraction, leaving you sick and unhappy, or creation, which transports you.

How will you balance the profane and the holy this week?

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And the holiday season begins. It hardly seems fair that we just get done with all the awful political ads, and they start right in on all the awful holiday ads, but oh well. Here at NDiN, I think we’ll turn off the tv and spend the week cooking.

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Here’s the turkey, which I (Xan) will actually be making for the December holidays rather than Thanksgiving this year. My sister-in-law will make Thanksgiving.

Turkey with apple-raisin stuffing
from Sphere magazine, circa 1975
1 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. butter
1 quart chopped apples (I use Granny Smiths)
1 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1 egg
1/4 c. apple cider
1 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Saute onion in butter over medium heat until transparent (about 5 minutes); stir in apples and celery, simmer uncovered over medium heat sitrring occasionally (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat, lightly beat egg and stir in, stir in remaining ingredients. Stuff bird. Oops. Find a recipe/instructions for roasting a stuffed turkey. Do that. (Actually Alton Brown says make the stuffing separately, cook the bird unstuffed and spatchcocked- you heard me- and then stuff it on the sly when no ones looking, during the “resting” period after you take it out of the oven.)

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Ahhh, where does that time go. I (Sincerely, Emily) am involved in a lot of things this year that are taking me away from home during the day and I find that I seem to be scrambling to get anything done right now. In terms of our Thanksgiving dinner, so far, the only two things I have thought about are the turkey and the stuffing. The local man I was getting a turkey from let me know that the turkeys did not put on weight, therefore, he has no turkey for me. I scrambled to find an organic turkey this past week. Yesterday I started making bread for my stuffing.

I use my normal no-knead bread recipe.  Then I add seasonings.

No-Knead Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp yeast (original recipe is 1/8 tsp, but I never got much of a rise so I added more!)
  • salt
  • 1 1/2 cup water (adjusted for your flour

Before I add the water I add the following herbs and spices

  • 2 T dried oregano  or minced fresh oregano
  • 2 T dried minced onions (or fresh)
  • 2 T dried ground sage or minced fresh

Mix dry ingredients together then start adding your water a little at a time.  I tend to never add the full water, I prefer my dough on the dry side. I then cover my bowl with plastic and let it sit over night or all day or until I remember to get back to it. I then knead the dough (yes, I knead the no-knead dough!) just a bit to pull it all together.) I then place it in an oiled bowl and let it rise about an hour or until it has doubled in size. I pre-heat the oven and the crock pot insert to 500F. I bake the bread, covered, for 30 minutes at 500F, then 15 minutes at 450F uncovered.  (see my above link for photo of crockpot insert)  (you can use dutch oven.) I allow the bread to completely cook before cutting it into cubes to dry for stuffing. The bread has all the wonderful herbs and spices already in it, but I do tend to add more when I make the stuff.

Ok, now I am in the mood for the holidays… or at least the food part!

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What are you making for Thanksgiving?

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With the time change, everyone keeps telling me that I am supposed to more well rested. Well, my inner time clock is truly messed up. The last few weeks I am up later than I ever was before the time change and I am waking up a lot earlier than I ever did before the time change. This week my inner clock has changed again. I am practically falling asleep at 8:15pm and still waking up super super early. What they heck!?

One thing that I can work out, is that it is time to announce the winner from last weeks giveaway.

First of all, I want to thank all of you for your interest in the book and your wonderful comments. Normally, I respond to all comments on my posts, but this time I just read and enjoyed them. It is always fun to get a little glimpse into what others are doing and it was neat to read about the different stages of preserving each of you are at. Some of you want to learn, some of you are just learning, others have been canning and preserving a while and others know someone that would really enjoy and use the book. That is great.

The second part I liked about this giveaway was  seeing the comments start coming in; to learn that there are people actually out there reading my posts! ha. I love the interaction and tidbits that come from comments. It is always neat to hear what others are up to and when you share a bit of what you are doing there is always someone who is learning from it. I would encourage you all to comment more so that we all can learn and share together along what ever path we are on.

No more waiting…. Let’s get on with it!… Without further ado…

Congratulations to Fran (narf77) at The Road to Serendipity. Fran, I hope you thoroughly enjoy the book! I will send you an email so that I can get your information and get the book sent your way.

Thank you again to everyone that entered the giveaway and I look forward to learning more about you from your comments in the future.

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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Okay, okay – this isn’t exactly a recipe, but it is my very favorite way to prepare Winter squash, especially butternut. I taught this recipe that i originally cooked relatively fat free to my Grandmother who turned it into something a bit greasier. I used to cook fat free at all times – but sometimes a little coconut oil and a cast iron pan just scream to do the frying of your squash.


Pan Seared Butternut

  1. Halve a squash longways, scoop out the seeds.
  2. Slice half moons about 1/4 inch or less thick.
  3. Heat a pan (cast iron best) with some coconut oil to medium high: lots of oil if your gramma, hardly any if you’re me.
  4. Arrange the squash slices so that they all lay down on the surface, sprinkle with your seasonings of choice (go with sweet or savory or both!). I like curry, paprika, cayenne, salt, but you could totally do pumpkin pie spice and cloves if you wanted it more pumpkiny.
  5. Heat on one side until browning and flip. Repeat and store the done squash on a plate in the oven. Don’t cram too many into the pan at once or it will be impossible to flip them!

That’s all there is to it! And omigosh, they’re so delicious. I actually adapted this recipe from a friend i met while living in Australia. He cooked the squash halfmoons on a griddle on the bbq and dipped them in sweet chilly sauce. No worries about peeling off the skin with this recipe either: just eat it and embrace the fiber!

Kale Chips

  1. Roughly chop some kale. I like to keep the stems, but cut those chunks smaller.
  2. Toss in some olive or coconut oil and season with salt, pepper and your choice of seasonings. I like nutritional yeast and smoked hot paprika.
  3. Put on an oven sheet in a hot oven preheated to 400. Try to lay them out evenly, but no worries if they won’t all fit without laying all over each other. WATCH THEM CAREFULLY! If you hear sizzling, take them out and flip them.
  4. Flip a few times every 5 minutes or so and cook no more than maybe 15 minutes, probably shorter. You want them to crisp, not singe to a crisp. Some will still be chewy, but that’s better than eating ash.

Kale is chock full of calcium and cancer fighting goodness and makes a great side dish that competes with the yuminess of french fries. You can use any kale for this dish, but i prefer the tuscan kales.

My favorite squash recipe will find its way on our plates many times this season. Do you have a favorite squash recipe?

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