Friday, February 26, 2010

Not Dabbling in Normal: Real Food Challenge


Up until about an hour ago, I was still floundering on my decision to participate in this challenge. March will be a difficult month around my house. My hubs and I are both facing surgeries, we have a kitchen remodeling project underway, and it just didn’t seem doable. But… I am in, and will give it my best.

We already eat most things from scratch. No fast food or sodas for my family. For the last year, we have been steadily cutting out processed foods. We have been eating seasonally and locally (for the most part) this winter thanks to our local CSA:  

We occasionally eat store bought crackers, chips, and breakfast cereal. Those will be difficult to completely do without, but not impossible. I’m planning to stock my freezer with homemade bread, muffins, cookies, and a few pre-made casseroles so we will be less tempted to ‘cheat’ on difficult days.

The crackers and chips will be the hardest for us. I’ve been wanting to try making my own crackers ever since Suzy mentioned that she makes her own. This is my golden opportunity to give it a go. And I’ll experiment with making homemade tortillas, too. I’m getting really excited!!! No more excuses. I think I’ll spend the day in my kitchen.

In Progress: Kitchen Renovation

Sourdough and Kitchen Before 001

We have had a little kitchen renovation project in the works around here this week. We knew when we bought this house that the bathrooms and kitchen would need some updating. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed this little kitchen. But there are some things we wanted to change to make it more functional for us.

Kitchen Before

Here is the before shot. It’s the day after we moved in. You can see we had a modified L-shape kitchen with a wrap around peninsula.

I have so loved the little bar area and bookshelf combo where the kids have eaten their breakfast and snacks. The problem was that it made the kitchen seem small and cramped, especially when we have guests.

Sourdough and Kitchen Before 007

So, the little bar is gone, and we’re trying to decide the best way to go from here.

Sourdough and Kitchen Before 009

We both love the look of natural granite, and it’s durability. We’re just struggling to justify the cost at this point. I won’t miss those old Formica laminate countertops in the least, but I’d like to make an environmentally sound and affordable choice. We’re undecided as to what we’ll end up doing. The cabinetry is in excellent shape, so we’ll refinish those. The countertops are proving to be our biggest expense, so we can afford to splurge a little here. I keep telling myself that granite will never need to be replaced.

Sourdough and Kitchen Before 010

We’ve also decided that a kitchen island is a must. I need the extra work and storage space. If possible, we’d like to rework the old peninsula to serve this purpose. It’s always better to use what you already have - it saves time, money, and waste. Although, I’m not sure how this particular repurposing will turn out. The peninsula is still rather large for the space. We’re going to try modifying it this weekend.

Sourdough and Kitchen Before 011

I’m really liking the way this kitchen has been opened up. It seems SO MUCH LARGER even though it hasn’t grown an inch. Traffic flow issues have been solved.

kitchen island

And I love this kitchen island. I have in mind to do something similar for our own. I’m blessed to have a wonderful husband who has many skills. We’ve never had to call a plumber or electrician. He’s an excellent carpenter, too. I look forward to seeing what he designs for our little kitchen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Melissa’s (Made from Scratch) Pumpkin Pie

kitchen redo and pumpkin pie 073

This is my recipe for pumpkin pie made with fresh pumpkin (not canned – although you could use it). This is a great way to use up those last few pumpkins or other winter squash left from your fall harvest. I’ve adapted this recipe from my Fannie Farmer and Sue Gregg cookbooks to suit our needs and tastes. I use only natural ingredients (mostly organic). Yes, I use real butter. But honestly, you need some good quality animal fat in your diet. No chemical laden butter substitutes allowed in my kitchen. I trust cows over chemists.

kitchen redo and pumpkin pie 040

The easiest way to prepare pumpkin flesh is to cut it in half, scoop out all the seeds and stringy stuff, and then cut it into wedges. My pumpkin was small, so quartering it worked for me. (Be sure to save those seeds for roasting alongside the pumpkin! You’ll just need to keep a close eye on those, as they burn easily and are often ready before the pumpkin is fully cooked. They’re delicious lightly salted.) I bake my pumpkin at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes. It depends on the size of your pumpkin.

kitchen redo and pumpkin pie 043

While the pumpkin is cooking I gather all of my ingredients (recipe at bottom). Just look at those gorgeous fresh organic eggs! If you look closely, the one on the far left is blue-ish in color. It comes from an Araucana chicken, also known as an Easter Egger. My kids think those are the coolest!

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When the pumpkin is tender, you’ll be able to scrape it from the skin using a spoon. I usually put my butter on the warm (not hot) baking sheet to soften.

kitchen redo and pumpkin pie 050

It’s nice to have a helper in the kitchen. I always have help with the baking. Today, Daniel joined me. We had such fun! He is an expert pumpkin masher.

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While he mashed the pumpkin, I measured my ingredients.

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You can use honey in this recipe, but if you have sorghum, that’s the way to go. It’s rich and thick, similar to molasses. I bake with it often.

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After I have my pumpkin pie filling mixed, I start on my crust. I cut in my butter using an old fashioned nut chopper, but you can also use a fork or two knives. I’ve never owned a pastry cutter.

kitchen redo and pumpkin pie 057

If you end up with more filling than will fit in your pie crust (it’s hard to find the exact size pumpkin you need!), no worries. Pour into ramekins and serve as pumpkin pudding. Daniel actually prefers the pudding. The small dishes will bake up more quickly, so keep a check on those.

Melissa’s Pumpkin Pie

2 c. cooked and mashed pumpkin flesh

3/4 c. organic whole milk (if you use store- bought canned pumpkin, you will need 1/2 c. extra milk)

4 eggs

1/2 c. sorghum or honey

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. You can use a blender for this if you desire a perfectly smooth pumpkin pie. I mix mine by hand because I love the texture of fresh pumpkin. Pour pumpkin mixture into pie crust (and extra ramekins if necessary) and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until set.

9 inch Pie Crust

1 1/2  c. unbleached naturally white all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. butter

6-7 Tbsp. cold water

Blend flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. I use an old fashioned nut chopper, but you could use a fork or two knives. I’ve never owned (or needed) an actual pastry cutter. Add just enough water to get the dough to form a ball. Begin mixing with a fork, and then incorporate all of the flour using your hands. Form dough into a ball and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough until it will cover your pie plate. Gently roll crust onto rolling pin so that it will transfer easily to the pie plate (I prefer stoneware). Trim the edges and crimp if you like.

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It’s equally good fresh from the oven as it is from the refrigerator. (Refrigerate any leftovers.) Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Estate Sale Finds


Well, I didn’t find any canning jars at the estate sale, but I’m still a happy camper. I found this fabulous old Crockpot which makes me giddy!


And I bought this box of old glassware without really knowing what was inside.


I could see these gorgeous bubble glasses at the top of the box.


But, I had no idea this was inside…


Or this butter dish…


Or this bud vase…


Or these small  dishes…


Or these plates…


But, the pièce de résistance was these glasses. Did I mention that our last name begins with P?  Yes, I am quite happy with my purchases! Daniel was thrilled to have the monogrammed glasses, too.

And I also purchased a 32 cup electric coffee percolator, but for some strange reason, I didn’t take a picture of it. Sorry! We will begin hosting our 'Life Group’ at church in our home in a couple of weeks, so I thought it would be nice to have a large capacity coffee brewer. (I’ll get a picture for you soon!) I think for $20 total, I did quite well at the sale.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Off to an estate sale…


Just a quick note to tell you I hope your weekend was as wonderful as mine. Spring was in the air! The temperature was around 65 degrees, and the sun was shining. We spent our Saturday building raised garden beds, fishing, and doing a little tidying around the outside of the house. It was so refreshing to throw open the windows and air the house out. Hard to believe we had snow last weekend.

Now, I’m off to an estate sale to see what I can find. I collect old stoneware and vintage fabric. I’ve also been on the lookout for canning jars and a pressure canner. It’ll be harvest season before you know it!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Book Week in Blogland

favorite booth

Did you know that it’s Book Week in blogland? I missed that memo, too. It’s not officially Book Week, but I can’t tell you how many book related posts I’ve read this week. I thought I’d play along.


We love books around here. Old, new, it doesn’t matter. My children inherited most of the books from my childhood, and we add to the collection almost every week.


I purchase the bulk of our books in thrift stores for $0.25 - $3.00.


I never mind spending money on books. I look at it as a sound investment in our mental health. Seriously. I encourage my children to ‘build good, strong brain muscles.’ 


For books I can’t find used, I usually purchase them online at and utilize the super saver (free) shipping. I can usually buy books online for half of what they charge in the bookstores.


I found these new sewing books for under $5 each at and had them shipped free of charge. They list for around $20 each elsewhere!


This organic gardening book is one of my favorite thrifty finds. It is full of good information that I’m sure I’ll reference for many years to come.


I like the layout here: lots of tables and plants are arranged alphabetically for easy referencing.


I also do quite a bit of ‘pleasure’ reading.


This one is next in line.

we love books

Daniel’s favorites are the Magic Tree House series (there’s a link in my sidebar if you’re interested) and the Hardy Boys. If you have an 8-year-old boy (or there abouts) I highly recommend them.

And for those of you who are interested in my research progress on the antique singer sewing machine, I'll have a post next week detailing my discoveries.  I’m having a great time with this project!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A VERY Good Gift: Antique Singer Sewing Machine


Oh, my! This machine makes my heart skip a beat every time I look at it. Seriously.


The woodwork on the cabinet alone is enough to make me swoon.


And I have no idea how to use it… yet.


Just look at this beauty!!!


It is powered by a foot-pedal. Sigh.


I don’t even know what model Singer this machine is…


But I intend to find out.

Just how did we survive before the internet? I *heart* Google.  You can find out about pretty much anything by doing a little search online.


I am a happy woman. I am a blessed woman. That wonderful man of mine certainly knows how to give a good gift, doesn’t he?


And I got some gorgeous tulips to boot. He knows me well enough to know that I prefer practical gifts. Flowers I can plant in my garden, and not cut roses that will be thrown out in a week’s time. A sewing machine that doesn’t require electricity. That might come in handy some day. You never know when you might be without electricity. We believe in being prepared.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

1 Toddler + 1 Sharpie = 1 Not-So-Happy Mama


Hmmm… I know EXACTLY who would do a thing like this.

We’ve had major problems with Sara Lynn’s recent artistic exploits. There has been toothpaste art on the bathroom counters, green smiley face ink stamps on the carpet at the top of the stairs, numerous suspicious crayon markings all over the house, and now, a black permanent Sharpie swirly on my dining room wall. Mama is not happy about this.

Sara Lynn is a girl who has her own sense of style, and she’s not shy about it. She often rearranges items around the house, moving candles from one spot to another, and stealing my good silverware for her play kitchen. I recently caught her putting away my neatly folded laundry in her playroom cupboards. That’s my girl. I had to smile, even though I knew I’d end up re-folding all those clothes.

Motherhood is such a wonderful journey. I try to remind myself this when I’m in the midst of an incident like the one with the Sharpie. I try to make the most of every day because I know that they’ll be grown and gone all too soon. God is good. Life is good. Life is short. Let’s not sweat the small stuff people! (But I am getting rid of the Sharpies!!!)