A Simple (Halloween) Sunday
October 31, 2010 at 6:00 am
~a little something spooky~
~making silly seeds*~
I really, really love this day!
Happy Halloween from my little family to yours!
If you have a minute during this Simple Halloween Sunday, share how you are celebrating in the comments!
*This year’s silly pumpkin seed flavor winners: cinnamon and maple sugar; curry powder and salt; garlic salt and a teeny pinch of cayenne; and vanilla sugar and cardamom. Roast in very small batches with a tiny bit of mild oil at 400 degrees for about 10 to 12 minutes.
A Very Good Week
October 30, 2010 at 6:00 am
October 28, 2010 at 6:00 am
It’s started to get chilly here the past few days.
Starts me thinking about staying warm …
I think warmth is so important, especially for little ones. And I believe we all function better (and act a lot nicer) when we feel warm enough.
We live in a drafty old house that whistles when the wind blows.
Our heating system makes some rooms boil-an-egg hot and other rooms suitable for polar bears.
Last year, we invested in long underwear for everyone. Ellery could still wear her fancy dresses, she just wore tights, and then pants too, with long underwear sometimes in between.
My own personal plan for staying warm involves big sweaters, hot tea, and wool socks.
I also like to keep some chocolate lavender oil near-by for when we come in from outdoors, to help us warm up hands and cheeks.
This is the time I start thinking about pots of soup on the stove and my favorite cocoa recipes.
The leaves are blowing off the trees today, there is a chill in the air that warns of winter.
But there is also yarn in the basket, an old tea kettle on the stove and lots of warmth given freely from the ones I love.
How are you planning on staying warm?
It’s the final day to sign up for the Simple Abundance book give-away. Comments close tonight at 6 p.m. CST. A winner will be announced in Friday’s post.
Holiday Making: Felt Sewing Book
October 27, 2010 at 6:00 am
It is way too early to be thinking about the winter holidays. Let’s just get that out of the way right now.
But maybe you’re like me and you like to give homemade gifts. And maybe you’ve found that in past years, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, last-minute crafting, baking and making can be really stressful.
Or maybe you like the idea of giving homemade gifts, but it all seems too overwhelming. Knit an afghan? Bake 12 different kinds of cookies to put in decorative cookie tins? Make toaster cozies for all of your 19 first cousins?
Just lock me up now and throw away the key.
I’m actually a big fan of simple handmades. I like giving unique gifts, and I love thinking of the recipient as I knit, sew or otherwise concoct something just for them.
I’ve also found that when you make something small and homemade, it’s easy to give it without expecting anything in return. One of my favorite things is making lip balm for my girlfriends.
So starting today, I’d like to share each week an idea for a homemade gift. Some may be biggish, and others may be very, very small (read very, very affordable).
Some will be perfect for putting in a stocking. (Although my mom has an idea this year to buy everyone reusable cloth bags and fill those instead of stockings — we have a bad habit of not returning the stockings very promptly!)
Others may need refrigeration.
My first idea is something I made Ellery for her half-birthday this year. For several months she had been asking for a sewing kit like Mama’s.
Now Mama’s sewing kit is far from child-friendly. It contains freakishly big shears, random pins and other items not really appropriate for a 3-and-a-half-year-old.
But I loved that she wanted to learn to sew. And I knew she would love this little book.
And so, I adapted this plan to make her a special sewing kit. I included small bits of felt and aida cloth, an embroidery hoop, a pair of blunt-tipped scissors and the booklet. Inside the book were just a few very blunt yarn needles, lots of buttons, some embroidery floss and some other small decorations.
To make sure this gift remains safe for my little girl, we keep everything in a basket and when she uses it, we sew together.
She loves it — she loves lacing the emroidery floss through the fabric and looking at all the colorful and unique buttons.
I think a child you know might like one too, but they are also handy for adults who like me, could use a little help with organizing those sewing supplies!
I’d love to hear about what you are making for this upcoming holiday season!
Looking for the book give-away? Sign up before it is too late here.
October 26, 2010 at 6:00 am
My husband and I had a conversation this weekend about growing up on slow-cooker meals. We both had busy moms who worked hard at an outside job, while also taking care of us.
And that meant weekly “Crock-Potted” meals (as my husband put it).
My favorite was Swiss steak. My husband’s was pot roast.
But we both remember coming home to a house filled with the smells of dinner.
It was homey and comforting. It felt warm.
Two years ago I asked for a slow cooker for a holiday gift. I was so inspired by recipes I saw for vegetarian lasagna and flavorful curries and all the wonderful things you can have cooking while you are out at the library or a class or get-together.
I received one that winter and immediately made the most disgusting lasagna I have ever seen, tasted or been in the presence of.
(And as a long-time vegetarian, I am used to vegetarian lasagna. It is the go-to veg dish at weddings, holidays parties and team building retreats. So I have seen bad lasagnas. Some of them I even tried. None of them made me think of burned hair).
My second attempt at a slow-cooker meal resulted in the kids asking when returning home from roller skating:
“Mommy, why does the house stink?”
“Stink?” I asked, wondering who had broken into our home and promptly died.
“Yeah, it’s like stinky cheese or something.”
There wasn’t even any cheese in that particular recipe, but I had to agree, the odor emanating from the slow-cooker smelled sickening and wrong, like maybe the cat had fallen in.
This was frustrating. There are a great many things that I am not good at. But I consider myself a pretty decent cook.
Eventually, I gave up. I considered selling the slow cooker in a garage sale. I figured there was no reason to have one if everything that came out of it was rejected by even the raccoons who frequent our garbage can.
But instead, I set it aside for a while. Maybe a few months. I don’t remember now. I kept it hidden it a dark closet, so as not to have failure staring at me all the time:
I’m making toast … FAILURE!
I’m making tea … FAILURE!
But then one day, I got an idea. I decided to try cooking beans in there.
Our family eats primarily vegetarian, and that means a lot of beans. A few years ago I began buying them in bulk and soaking them overnight on the stove.
It was a time-consuming process, but of course that was not the real issue.
The real issue is I always forgot to soak the darn beans.
I would literally walk into the kitchen at 5:30 and smack myself in the forehead. Then I would spin around a few times and decide we were having breakfast for dinner.
I had read about cooking beans in the slow-cooker, no pre-soak was required.
And I am glad to say that we now eat slow-cooked beans a couple of times a week. I like to make a batch of chickpeas on Mondays for salads and hummus. I like to make black beans for our weekly taco night. Sometimes, I’ll make a batch for soup too.
I still sometimes forget to actually cook the beans, but I am happy to say that the slow-cooker and I have made amends.
And, as I type this, the place is smelling pretty darn warm.
Rinse and drain 2 cups of dried chickpeas. Add beans to slow-cooker with enough water to cover plus about 4 inches. Add two bay leaves and a few pinches of cinnamon. Cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. Add salt to taste. Great in salads, in soups, or blended into hummus.
Slow-Cooker Black Beans
Rinse and drain one cup of black beans. Add beans to slow-cooker with enough water to cover plus about 4 inches. Add in one half onion, two bay leaves and a teaspoon of cumin. Cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. Add salt to taste. You can drain most of the water and mash the beans, or serve them whole.
Slow-Cooker Soup Beans (usually white beans or cranberry beans)
Rinse and drain one cup of beans. Add to slow-cooker with enough water to cover plus about 4 inches. Toss in a couple of carrots, a half onion, a teaspoon of thyme or basil (depending on what type of soup you are making), and two bay leaves. Cook on high 6 to 8 hours. Add salt to taste. Drain and add to soup.
These beans also freeze well in small freezer-safe containers. Add a little of the cooking liquid to the container before freezing.
Do you have a favorite bean or slow-cooker recipe? Share it or link to it in the comments below!
Loving our Library
October 25, 2010 at 6:00 am
I got my love of words from my grandfather, but I got my love of books from my dad.
He was and still is always reading. On birthdays, Christmas and Father’s Day, I always know what to get him.
And my father loves to have books. Not just read them, but have them, in his home, on his shelves, surrounding him.
I like that too.
I try to control myself when it comes to acquiring them — I try to only buy the ones I know I will read (or at least reference) again and again.
But I love holding a book. I love having one in my bag so that I can sneak-read a few pages when the opportunity presents itself. I have books next to my bed, next to the couch, and filling every inch of available shelf space.
But if you inspected our library carefully, you would notice that most of ours books have more than a little shelf-ware. That’s because many of them were not purchased new. They were picked up here and there for a dollar or two — sometimes less. (I even bought children’s books sometimes before I had children and saved them.)
Back when our family was made up of just two people, my husband would take me to used bookstores and I would get lost for hours, strolling up and down the dusty aisles and feeling pure glee at discovering something special.
I especially love finding old books — classics, out of print books, and all those old Sunset books.
I love old vegetarian cookbooks, any old cookbook, really. I love the classics from my childhood.
And so we find ourselves now, quite often, at used books sales, searching the shelves at thrift stores and even searching online for old volumes.
In the past few weeks, we’ve found some wonderful books to add to our home library (we actually make stickers that say Anderson Family Library and our phone number because we shop library sales and I always worry that we will accidentally return one. Plus, we like to loan out books to friends.)
Owen found a vintage Nancy Drew and a vintage Hardy Boys this weekend, complete with yellowing pages and 1940s copyrights. The Nancy Drew is for me, he told me, but we’ve since decided to share it.
At a thrift store recently we found A Child’s Garden of Verses, some Laura Ingalls Wilder to add to our growing collection, Now We are Six and several of the Encyclopedia Brown series. At a local library sale we uncovered The Wind in the Willows, a biology field guide, a set of vintage French readers, Tom Sawyer and an incomplete set of Childcraft reference books.
The kids love to set out books on the shelf, organize them and even give them all library cards.
And I love that the kids seem to have caught my book fever — one family trait that I am more than happy to pass on.
At that library book sale this week, I found a copy of one of my very favorite books. It looked like new and was difficult to pass up. I figured I would give it to a friend. And then I thought about it some more, and decided that I would really like to give it to one of you to thank you for being part of this blog for the past two months.
To enter the give-away for the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, please leave a comment in the section below about your favorite book.
Comments will close Thursday, Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. A randomly selected winner will be announced in Friday’s post.
I’m looking forward to hearing about your favorite books!
A Simple Sunday
October 24, 2010 at 6:00 am
There was a time, not so very long ago, when each week followed a rhythm and Sundays were a day of rest.
In our family, we are trying to recapture that feeling of having a day of peace, togetherness and reflection.
This isn’t always the easiest thing. Dishes need to be done, groceries bought, clutter … uncluttered.
But our family has recently made a commitment to try to slow down and simplify, and focusing on Sundays seems like a good place to start.
Will you join us for A Simple Sunday?
Listening to this radio program about Unconditional Love today …
A Very Good Week
October 23, 2010 at 6:00 am
An assortment of recipes, books, blog posts, or other things that inspired me this week.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
One Small Change
The Bully Project (via Enlightened Motherhood)
Now It’s Fall
What is inspiring you this week? Please leave a link below!
Pumpkins and Chocolate
October 22, 2010 at 6:00 am
You might think that after my most recent experience with a candy thermometer, that I might shy away from candy making.
But this week, I was anxious to create some allergy-friendly Halloween treats.
I remembered that years ago I had bought a Halloween-themed candy mold, and somehow it has survived the various purgings of the Surprise Closet (which we intially named the Prize Closet because we used to hide gifts in there, but the kids have renamed the Surprise Closet because frankly, you never know what you are going to find).
And so I dug out that mold, and today, we made some chocolate candy (no thermometer required).
These are just melted chocolate filled with fun surprises like almond butter, chopped pecans, coconut and Ricemellow Cream.
Take that popcorn balls!
But because even allergy-free candy is still candy, we couldn’t eat the whole tray.
So thank goodness we had some of these to snack on until next weekend.
We adapted this recipe to make it allergy friendly by using coconut oil instead of butter, ground flax instead of eggs (see recipe, below) and gluten-free flour. We also used a dairy-free, gluten-free brand of chocolate chips to make them allergy safe.
Pumpkiny Chocolate Chip Bars
2 cups flour (we used Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour plus 3/4 tsp xanthan gum)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup brown sugar
2 flax eggs*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch baking dish with aluminum foil.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Add melted coconut oil, sugar, flax egg mixture, vanilla and pumpkin puree. Mix until just combined. Add chocolate chips and stir again.
Spread mixture into pan. bake for about 30 minutes, until bars pull away from the side of the pan. Allow to cool, and then peel off foil. Cut using a serrated knife.
* To make two “flax eggs” mix two heaping tablespoons of ground flax seeds with 5 tablespoons very hot water. Stir to combine.
What is your favorite pumpkin and chocolate combination?
Making Some Horrendous Popcorn Balls
October 20, 2010 at 6:00 am
This time of year always reminds me of popcorn balls.
My grandma used to buy them for my sister and me from a little candy shop that only made them in October.
Usually I would get a blue one and my sister would get a green one, but sometimes the store where my grandma bought them would be out of blue or green or both and we would get red.
I wasn’t a huge fan of red because it tasted red. But I was a huge fan of popcorn balls.
In the really lucky years, my grandma would give us popcorn balls on Halloween too.
We would get dressed up and go trick-or-treating, which was pretty comical where we lived out in the country.
We could walk to our nearest neighbors’ house, but that was pretty much it.
(And we never trick-or-treated at the next nearest neighbors’ house because they had a habit of picking up roadkill and fricasseeing it.)
After we visited the neighbors who didn’t eat raccoons, my dad would load us up in the car and take us on a whole tour of older people we mostly only saw on Halloween and occasionally at church.
Down the road we would go, stopping at farm after farm, and getting gift baskets. Seriously. There were so few children who lived out where we did, that we would get baskets full of carefully wrapped homemade treats from women named Cora and Doris.
Doris, we actually did see more frequently. Doris was our piano teacher, except we never called her by her first name.
She would come to our house on Monday nights and I would eat pot roast while my sister had her lesson and then my sister would eat pot roast while I had my lesson.
Piano lessons with Doris were only fun around Christmas time when the songs were recognizable. Otherwise, it was just Hot Cross Buns and Lavender Blue, and who hears that over the loudspeaker at Kmart?
But back to Halloween. After touring the acres of farmland around our house and getting homemade fudge and candy apples and every other treat imaginable, our final stop was my grandparents’ house, where they gave out dimes.
I never really understood the dimes.
They weren’t cheap about it. By the end of the night a kid could actually score a couple bucks just by showing up with a Freddy Krueger mask and a pillowcase.
It took more effort to go to the bank and ask for dimes, then wrap the piles of dimes in cellophane and tie them with black ribbon than it would have to have to thrown an extra bag of mini Snickers bars into the cart at the grocery store.
Looking back now, I think with all the talk of razor blades and having your candy X-rayed, my poor grandmother feared she would accidentally poison someone.
And yes, to clarify, this is the same woman who bought her granddaughters dyed popcorn shaped into balls by the hands of strangers.
I’m not saying it made sense. I am just saying that was my Halloween growing up, every year for years and years, until we got too old for dressing up (but not too old for popcorn balls).
Because I still don’t think I am too old for popcorn balls, although I am finding it challenging to make a healthy dairy-free version this year.
(I really miss butter …)
The first batch we tried didn’t actually make caramel. So when I tried to add the sugar mix to the popcorn, it made sandy-sweet-margarine-popcorn clumps.
Don’t even get me started on the honey-based recipe I tried. They were like eating popcorn-scented candles.
The third attempt frightened me from the start because it was a Paula Deen recipe without butter. Should have followed my instincts there.
The fourth and final recipe I tried made caramel, but when I tasted it, there was a weird flavor where the butter was supposed to be.
I had run out of popcorn at that point anyway. We only buy 5 pounds at a time.
I’m not sure what to do about the popcorn ball dilemma. Part of me thinks it is time to stop, before popcorn balls cease being associated with warm memories of my grandmother and start being associated with watching the candy thermometer and saying the S word.
Perhaps it is time to switch gears.
You know, my grandpa always used to buy us these caramel apples …
Have you made a delicious dairy-free popcorn ball? Save the day by commenting below … or just tell us about your favorite memory of Halloween.