Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Last week Miranda over at Pocket Pause kicked off the start of some giveaways here at Not Dabbling in Normal. This week it is my turn, and I must say that I really struggled with trying to figure out what to offer.  When we started talking about this behind the scenes, my original thought was to make a set of napkins or some cards. Somehow I started to doubt that anyone would want either of these things. Hmmm. The wishy-washy, flip-flop of my decision making was between said napkins & cards or something completely different, but what?!  Ack!

When I really buckled down and started to think about it, books came to mind, but a book about what? Cooking, gardening, fermenting, preserving…. what?!

As I looked through the books on my shelves I came across one that might be of interest to some of you. Yes, you, our readers.  After all, for me, this is a small way to thank you for commenting and sharing a part of your world too.

So, what did I pick?

Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put ’em up! I bought this book about a year ago and I really enjoy it. So far, I have only used it to make up dilly beans, but there are a few other recipes that I have bookmarked and will try at some point.

There is an entire section on food preparation methods which will be very helpful to those of you that want to start canning food as well as other methods of preservation like freezing, infusions, and drying.

Another thing I like about this book is the index in the back. I can just look up mushrooms to find where to look for mushroom recipes or I can just leaf through it looking on the side of the page to find the vegetable that I am interested in and all the recipes for that vegetable are all together.

Some of the recipes I still want to make are: Curried Cauliflower, Corn Salsa and Italian-flavored Pickled Zucchini.

Are you interested in an opportunity to win Put ’em up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton? By the way, you will get a new book, not the one that has been sitting on my shelf.

Well, I will try to keep this simple… all you need to do is comment and tell me why you would like to win this book and how you would use it.  Are you interested in learning different preserving techniques? Are you looking for a way to preserve more in new way? Have you been preserving things, but are looking for some new and exciting recipes?

Only one comment will be counted per person. The deadline for comments is Friday, November 16th at noon (that’s noon where I live – central time, USA). I will announce the winner next Saturday, November 17th.

Thank you again to all of the readers out there.  I look forward to reading your comments.

Update: I just realized that I never titled my post. Hmmm I better put my thinking cap back on!

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.

Read Full Post »

There are steps to creating a sustainable life.

In our society the realities of sustainability run up against the national character. Rigid self-sufficiency and individualism are the holy grail; in the words of Maxwell Anderson, how you can tell an American is that you cannot tell him what to do, even when it’s in his own best interest. In the current political insanity, any suggestion that we try to save our common heritage–like, for instance, the air–through sensible regulation, is excoriated as “removing choice.”

Enter the idea of the commons–those things that we own together, starting with the air, but also the water, the language, the creative works of humanity.

What I’ve discovered through the creation of the Peterson Garden Project, is that for many sustainable initiatives that revolve around community action, we lack a language. The language of communal action has been removed from the dialog, or vilified as “communist” or “socialist.” But some things, even most things cannot be done alone. The old saying that ‘your right to swing your fist ends at my nose” needs to be understood again to extend to our food and our health.

A new language does exist, in the old language, through the concept of the commons. What we hold together. What we all must use, but also spare, share, and save. Where our right to swing our so-called individual rights ends at the epidemic asthma in the inner cities because of pollutants, or the loss of aquifers because private owners have drained the wetlands that used to belong to all of us. We’ve allowed private bank accounts to be the fist, but haven’t stopped their swing at our collective nose.

Last week was the annual Good Fest Festival in Chicago (formerly the Family Farmed Fest), a really wonderful trade show all about restoring local, sustainable food systems to the urban landscape.  The exhibitors are all local farmers and food makers. It’s where I first learned how to change my diet to nearly 100% local food.

This year my friend LaManda Joy of The Yarden, founder of The Peterson Garden Project, was on the panel “Growing A Good Food Community”, about building urban communities through gardening and creating gardens by building urban communities. The interesting thing was that her fellow panelists were my old high school friend Jay Walljasper and Julie Ristau of On The Commons.

The panel, moderated by Megan Larmer of Slow Food Chicago, was beautifully constructed around the steps we need to take back collective ownership, working in a very American way, through individual action.

It starts, as I say, with the language. Jay talked about first, the need to start thinking again about the commons, and also laid out a basic way to think about the commons again. As important, he talked about how language can lead this new, old way of thinking, focusing right in on the difficulties I have had getting funders in particular to understand that what we’re doing is not a farm with a single owner or board, but collective action for individual benefit.

But it cannot stop with the language; only talking only works for academics. Enter Julie Riskau, founder and former publisher of the Utne Reader and current spokeperson for On The Commons. Julie talked about turning language into policy initiatives of the sort that lead to intelligent municipal ordinances which, for instance, stop creating criminals of people who put their edible gardens in their front yards because that is where the sun is.

But policy is only effective with an army of individuals putting it to work at street level. Which is where LaManda Joy and her Pop-up Victory Gardens come in, as well as the many other community gardening, and community preserving, and farmers markets, local school councils, in fact all of the community-based efforts that will save our cities and towns.

We need to restore the language, so we can affect the law, so we can own the activities that will make our communities livable.

Read Full Post »

Why hello! I am Emily’s husband, Jeremy.  You might’ve seen pictures of me doing various farmy type stuff.  I like to be very supportive towards any and all of Emily’s flora and fauna vices.  I love animals and I like to eat vegetables, but I’m really whiny when it comes to physical labor. I’m really appreciative that Emily puts up with it.

I draw for a living, which is easier to do from the inside of a house, so about 94.78% of everything Emily posts about is all her.  I know it bums her out a little and she covers it up really well.  When she does tap me on the shoulder and say “I need you outside” I drop my brush and try not to be a poop head.  I do love the out-of-doors and we do make several camping trips throughout the summer.  The things I love to draw the most are organic in nature and are influenced by artists like Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Walter Crane, and Winsor McKay to name a few.

I, myself, like to be a bit creative in the kitchen [not as successfully as Emily] and I appreciate her exotic layering of different flavors to entice the palette.  I do the majority of the cooking though and usually that means a meal that is less thought out and quicker in prep time.  Emily is outrageously good at preparing special suppers and the like, when she has a goal in mind. She’s getting a lot better with multi-tasking several dishes at the same time too, but she sure can fill up an empty sink with dirty dishes afterward! 😉 HahAAaa!

I never saw myself as a farmer when I was little, I’ve known I wanted to be an artist since I was like 6 or something, but I did not see this coming.  Still, I help put the critters out and feed them, and then put them up for the night. It’s not really that hard.  I’ve promised Emily an hour a day to help her in the garden when she needs me.  I know that doesn’t really sound like much but it takes a lot of time to do what I do so that I can pull my weight with bills and things.

I reeeeeaaally enjoy living where we live right now and hopefully we will be here for a while.  You should see the gardens Emily has sweated over; they are really beautiful.  She has an incredible stamina for working outside, I know I couldn’t do that.  But then again I sit at a drawing table for 10 hours a day.

When Emily and I first met she knew me as that art snob that worked at the art store and she totally had a crush on me.  I remember seeing a really pretty girl that I thought was out of my league.  Then, a year later I eavesdropped on a conversation between her and a coworker of mine about Terry Gilliam and I had to put my two cents in about his brilliance and that’s how the ball started rolling.  I think the thing that really cinched it was our mutual love of childrens’ books.

While she is trying her best to become the next Tasha Tudor I am working hard to be somewhat of an Arthur Rackham with the line work of Gustave Dore.  Now when Emily posts pictures she usually does really nice photos of her gardens or the animals or something she conjured in the kitchen; I don’t really do so much of that.  Soooooo I will put up some of the stuff I dabble in. So here you go.  Hope you like it and can sympathize with why I spend so much of my time avoiding going outside.

I too have my own blog. I am not as efficient as Emily at loading it with good stuff on a regular schedule but you can see more of what I do, while Emily is earning her callouses outside.  You can visit me at jeremybastian.blogspot.com.  Thank you all for taking the time.


Read Full Post »

Autumn is Upon Us


The days are officially getting shorter, the weather cooler, and the trees are getting their signals to start changing their colors. It seems like Autumn goes by quickly. That no sooner does the foliage change than the leaves start piling in our yards. Cool and sunny afternoons turn into rainy, cold days, and before we know it Old Man Winter is knocking on our door.


If you’re like me you enjoy bundling up in a warm sweater and spending time outdoors amongst the yellows, oranges, and reds. Raking leaves has never been an unpleasant task for me. If you’re lucky you’ll have the opportunity to spend some time to enjoy the scenery. Before you plan your outing, here are a few helpful resources that may help you plan your journey:


Helpful Sites:

Leave No Trace: How to enjoy the outdoors ethically and responsibly.

Fall Foliage Maps by Region. The Weather Channel has a great mini-site advising when to expect foliage color changes.


Leaf Identification Websites:





Recommended Field Guides:

Peterson First Guides: Trees by region

National Audubon Society Field Guide: Trees by region

National Audubon Society Field Guide for birds

Pocket Naturalist Guide: Trees & Wildflowers by state





Drawing paper, pencils, watercolors

 Bird Call Apps for phones

Plan ahead and enjoy this time of the season. It doesn’t last long!

What’s your favorite part of Autumn?

Jennifer can be also be found at Unearthing This Life where she shares excerpts of the life she spends with 7 chickens, 2 cats, 1 frog, 1 fish, 1 child, and 1 husband (there can only be so many to look after!).

Read Full Post »

I have many cookbooks in my kitchen.  There are only two that I keep out because I use them ALL the time.

One is my Healthy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book.  The other is my ‘the Flavor Bible’

Which is really not a cookbook at all.

It is a book that I use to look up an ingredient that I have and the Flavor Bible will give me a list of flavors that go with said ingredient.

Right now I have cherries in my kitchen.  When I look up cherries it gives me an alphabetical list of flavor that are good with that particular fruit:

allspice, ALMONDS, amaretto, apricots, Armgnac, bourbon, brandy, butter, buttermilk, cake, caramel, cassis, cheese:   Brie, goat, ricotta, cherries dried, CHOCOLATE, ESP. DARK,WHITE cinnamon, cloves, coconut…

The list goes on and on…

The type will tell you how well the flavors go:

Flavors mentioned in regular type are pairings suggest by one or more experts.

Those in bold were recommended by a number of experts.

Those in BOLD CAPS were very highly recommended by and even great number of experts.

Those in *BOLD CAPS* with and asterisk (*) are “Holy Grail” pairings that are the most highly recommended by the greatest number of experts.

This book as completely revolutionized my cooking and baking.  I have taken many old recipes and ‘jazzed’ them up with new flavors. At nearly 400 pages you will find almost anything that could possibly inhabit your kitchen in this book.

I have taken and combined ingredients that I would never have considered.

Here are some that are recommended for cherries…





cherries+goat cheese+ice wine vinegar+black pepper+thyme



I actually made my kids a dish of plain yogurt that I sweetened with honey, stirred in lots of fresh, finely chopped cherries and on top sprinkled chopped pistachios…you would have thought I had given them a bowl of ice cream!  That is how good they said it was!  I would never had considered that combination if not for this book.

Seriously people this book will rock your cooking world.

A map for the adventurous home chef to discover a world of new delights!


Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!

Read Full Post »

I was supposed to post the winner yesterday, but Kim’s Righteous Rant stirred such a lively conversation that I didn’t want to interrupt it. So, without further ado, the winner is Stacy from the Little Blue Hen. Email me your address (my email is on the contact us page) and I’ll get the book in the mail to you. I hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear about the breads you make. For the rest of you who wish you won the book, you can get it here (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes), or you can try your library. (I tried that, but had to wait weeks to get it and couldn’t keep it long enough.) I thought I could copy a few recipes and be fine, but the cost of copying almost the whole book was more than buying it. If you dream of great bread, but don’t have the time, this is a book you should own! (AND USE!!!)

Read Full Post »

Take Time to Read

Chiot’s Run is located in NE Ohio, so gardening outdoors is pretty much not an option during Dec/Jan/Feb. The earth it covered in an insulating blanket of snow and we’re snug as bugs in our warm little house.

Since I can’t garden, I take the winter months to recharge, getting some much needed rest from all the garden chores. I also make sure I read a lot of books about gardening, natural health, nutrition, novels, cookbooks, old favorites, and more gardening books. This is my time to learn things that I can put into practice during the gardening season.

I find myself often sitting in a chair by the window with a good book and a cup of tea. Throughout the year I keep a reading list on my computer and add books to it as I come across them. I start requesting the books from the library in November and keep a big stack on the table throughout these cold winter months. I read while drinking my morning coffee, during lunch and dinner and in the evenings.

This winter I’m reading through the Little House on the Prairie books again. I loved them as a girl and since my nieces are reading them, I thought it would be nice to refresh my memory. It gives me something to chat with them about. They’re wonderful books for young and old. Great stories of true homesteaders living during a time when life was much more difficult than it is today.

I’ve got a list of things I want to learn more about this winter. I need to read up on maple sugaring before the sap starts to flow. We’re hoping to get a good amount of maple syrup this year. I want to read Eliot Coleman’s new winter gardening book; The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses to see if I can put some of it into effect this coming fall/winter to give us more food from the garden in the winter.

What’s on your winter learning/reading list?

Read Full Post »

As we strive to live as locally as possible, we’ve been learning to make things for ourselves. It’s easy to make your own homemade bread, soup, hamburgers, but it gets more difficult when it comes to those things that you’ve acquired a taste for a specific brand, like ketchup. Mr Chiots is a specific Heinz brand ketchup kind of guy. If it isn’t a Heinz, he won’t eat it. Several years ago I switched to organic Heinz which I like because it has no high fructose corn syrup.

Last year I made a bunch of different kind of chutneys and we started eating those instead of ketchup on a lot of things, like hamburgers. On fries though, Mr Chiots still had to have Heinz. I’ve tried homemade ketchup in the past and I’ve never found one that I liked, until now!

I checked Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects out of the library and saw the recipe for ketchup. After reading it through, I decided if we were going to like any recipe it was going to be this one. Since I lack the ability to follow a recipe to a T, I changed the recipe a bit. I used roasted tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes and I used olive oil and ground cardamom since I didn’t have whole pods.

If you would like my amended recipe it’s on my blog, I won’t repost it here (the original recipe of course is in the book, which is free from your local library). I must admit, this is a great recipe, it has that perfect sweet tanginess that I love. This ketchup also makes a great sloppy joe sauce. If you’re in the market for a ketchup recipe definitely try this one! This is the ketchup that will be gracing our table from now on (although I’ll keep a bottle of store-bought around for those picky eaters that occasionally come to visit).

What kinds of thing are you learning to make at home to save money and eat more healthfully?

Read Full Post »

We here at Not Dabbling in Normal are always working on ideas for advancing the Not Dabbling community and hopefully treating our readers to informative and fun posts and treats.  We thought we’d take a moment to fill you in on a few of those things, just in case you didn’t already know:

  • Reader’s Question Posts: We set aside the first and fifth (when it happens) Friday of each month to answer specific questions from our readers.  You are always encouraged to ask questions in the comments sections of specific posts, but if there is something specific you’d like our writers to answer please feel free to email that question to : mtkatiecakes@yahoo.com
  • Friends Not Dabbling in Normal: We have a yahoo group, for all the readers and writers who’d like to join.  It’s a simple, but fun and informative (and free) e-mail community.  To join simply go to the group’s home page and sign up.
  • Not Dabbling in Normal Photos: If you are a member over at flickr, consider joining our group and show off your Not Dabbling in Normal Photos.

Today, we’d like to announce the first of two giveaways (the other will be announced soon).  Today’s giveaway is for a choice of 2 books from the following set of 6 books focusing on the spinning and knitting arts:

  • In Sheep’s Clothing — a hand spinners guide to wool (very informative about wools in general. Knitters might be interested in this too)
  • Diane Varney’s Spinning Designer yarns
  • Ashford book of Spinning
  • Sandra Polley’s The Knitted Teddy Bear
  • Shawls and Scarves –The best of Knitter’s Magazine.
  • Debby Bliss’ Toy Knits

If you’d like to win those books, please comment on this post by 5PM, Mountain Standard Time on Friday, September 25, 2009.  We’ll pick one winner from the comments and announce the winner on Sunday, September 26th.

Sorry about the mistake for those of you who read previous to friday at 6:56 eastern time. The give away is for a choice of 2 of the 6 books. Not all 6. Sorry 🙂

Read Full Post »

Summer Reading


It’s getting closer to the first day of summer…it’s time for weeding, chores, long days, those projects that couldn’t be done in other months…and yes, everyone’s busy!

Despite the pace, somehow our house is still draped with a rotating detritus of books some would call surface clutter, but what we find enjoyable about anytime we can catch time for a good read.  Some of them have been deliberate purchases, and many others are snagged from the library, often requested in inter-library loans after doing fun searches on different subjects.

Here are a few that are being enjoyed by us at the moment.

1.  Water Storage:  Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Pondsfor domestic supply, fire, and emergency use — Includes how to make Ferrocement Water Tanks (by Art Ludwig)

This one is Jack’s find, and I know what the draw was…anything having to do with water supply and ferrocement.  He loves loves loves building things and has a lot of ideas going for uses for ferrocement.  And yes, I enjoy reading through this one, if I can ever lure it away from him long enough 🙂

Some chapter headings for sampling:

Thinking About Water — Why Store Water?  Design Principles. How Water Quality Changes in Storage

Ways to Store Water — Source Direct (No Storage). Store Water in Soil.  Store Water in Aquifers.  Store Water in Ponds.  Store Water in Open Tanks, Swimming Pools.  Store Water in Tanks.

Examples of Storage Systems For Different Contexts:  Poor Surface Water Quality, Limited Groundwater.  Only Stored Water in Dry Season, Hydroelectric in Wet Season.  Creek Direct with Remote Storage and Sand Filtration.  Very, Very Low Pressure.  Simple Jungle Eden.  Rural House with Well.  Urban Apartment.  Swank Suburban House.

2.  Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning:  Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Venegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation (by the Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante)

I’d seen mention of this book in a lot of blogs and other sites, with many people weighing in with pros and cons of what by some is considered potentially “iffy” types of food preservation.  However, I value the collective wisdom of folks whose methods have been passed down by their past generations, or who’ve found ways to sustain themselves with foods preserved in traditional ways unfamiliar to me.  For those uncomfortable with any of the methods, it’s still an interesting read, and for others like myself who love to search out further alternatives, it’s a great book.

Some sample chapter titles:

Preservation Without Nutrient Loss

Preserving in the Ground or in a Root Cellar

Preserving by Drying

Preserving by Lactic Fermentation

Preserving With Salt

Preserving in Alcohol

3.  Gaia’s Garden:  A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, Second Edition (By Toby Hemenway)

This is a book I’m thoroughly enjoying, and that’s been on my wish list for some time.  When it arrived in the mail a month ago, I was so excited!  It’s a pretty thorough yet straightforward and understandable book on permaculture, easy enough for beginners to understand.  I’ve learned a lot so far by taking this book a chapter at a time and giving myself time to read a section and chew on it a bit.  What I enjoy so much about reading about permaculture, once it’s demystified, is that it “feels right” for what we hope to accomplish with our plan for our own surroundings, be it right here in the sorta-suburbs, or later with some more land.  I’ve heard this book recommended before, and I’m glad I listened.

Some sample section headings:

The Garden as Ecosystem

The Pieces of the Ecological Garden — Bringing the Soil to Life.  Catching, Conserving, and Using Water.  Plants for Many Uses.  Bringing in the Bees, Birds, and Other Helpful Animals.

Assembling the Ecological Garden — Creating Communities for the Garden.  Designing Garden Guilds.  Growing a Food Forest.  Permaculture Gardening in the City.  Pop Goes the Garden.

4.  Geodesic Domes (by Borin Van Loon)

This is another of Jack’s picks…he loves to play with design.  And I love when he is happy playing with designs!  I have absolutely no idea what most of the terms in this book mean, seeing how geometry and I never were best friends, but the patterns are fascinating.

Some sample chapter headings:

Underlying Symmetry

Divisions of the Spheres

Domes by Truncation

Domes by Subdivision

Chord Factors

5.  Successful Small-Scale Farming:  An Organic Approach (by Karl Schwenke)

This is the book I won in a giveaway, woo!  (Thanks, Lacy!)  When I have re-emerged from Gaia’s Garden chapters, it will command my full attention.  I’ve already cheated and begun reading different parts of it because I can’t help it, and it has some pretty terrific charts and resource lists throughout and at the back of the book I know we’ll enjoy using.

Some sample chapter headings:



Farm Machinery

Farm Products

Cash Crops

Other Cash and Specialty Crops

The Whole Farm


As your summer approaches faster by the day,  what books do you find yourself picking up as references, resources, or inspiration?


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: