Friday, August 31, 2012

Bi-Monthly Book Look - July/August

I'm still having trouble finding as much time to read for pleasure as I would like.  I've been reading a lot of homesteading magazines and online-articles, which I also enjoy, but it's not the same as picking up a book simply because it sounds interesting.

I was able to finish three books in July and August, which is amazing considering I fell asleep most nights after just a few pages.

Arcadia - Lauren Groff
My Rating: 4 out of 5.  This novel follows the life of flower child Bit Stone from before his birth to late adulthood, as he both sheds and desperately hangs on to the hippie ideals of his commune-living parents.

A Lesson Before Dying - Ernest J. Gaines
My Rating:  4 out of 5.  This is an Oprah's Book Club book from the 1990s, reminiscent of To Kill a Mockinbird.  When a young man is wrongly convicted of murder, his former teacher is called upon to convince him of his self-worth before he dies.  When I picked it up and started reading, I remembered the story, but having finished it, I still can't say whether I had read it before or if I saw the film version.

Folks, This Ain't Normal:  A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World - Joel Salatin

My Rating: 5 out of 5. I loved this book, which is as much about child-rearing and personal responsibility as it is about farming.  I enjoy Salatin's tone, and learned quite a lot from this book.

Goodreads synopsis:  From farmer Joel Salatin's point of view, life in the 21st century just ain't normal. In FOLKS, THIS AIN'T NORMAL, he discusses how far removed we are from the simple, sustainable joy that comes from living close to the land and the people we love. Salatin has many thoughts on what normal is and shares practical and philosophical ideas for changing our lives in small ways that have big impact.

Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking -  Susan Cain
My Rating: 4 out of 5.  This in an important book for introverts like me, but maybe even a more important read for the extroverted majority to read.  The book explains how introverts and extroverts process information and seek stimulation differently, while sharing valuable insight on how we can all contribute and relate to one another better.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Look Back in Time


I was so excited when, a few days ago, I found these photos on a historical society website.  These photos weren't dated, but must have been taken in the early 1900s.

My first memory of this store is as a patron when I was 4 or 5 years old, in the late 60s.  I have many more memories of it from roughly the mid-70s through the mid-80s, when my parents owned it. 

They were the third owners of this store, and although times had changed, the store really had not.  It was very much the same as in these photos. On the outside, the awning no longer wrapped around the side, and the color scheme was more monochromatic, as in this photo... 


rather than the contrasting colors of this shot...


Inside was a also very similar.  As in the photo below, cut-to-order fabric was on the left side, shoes were on the right side, but by then the shelves went to the ceiling, or nearly so, with attached rolling ladders to reach the uppermost shelves. 

Many of the fixtures were the same.  The suspended gas lamp had been replaced with several electric lamps, but the store still had a wood stove as it's only source of heat (I do not think it was the one in the picture, however).  Box fans and screened doors were the only way to cool the store; there was never any air conditioning in the building.

On the left side you'll notice a rectangular glass display sitting on the counter, and if you look closely (and know what to look for) on the right side, near the arched doorway, there is a curved-front glass display case.  Both of these were still in the store when my parents owned it, although they were situated on counters in the center of the store in front of the wood stove.  I suspect many of the other counters I remember were also the originals.


In addition to fabric and shoes, my parents sold sewing notions, small costume jewelery, knick-knacks, useful household items (think clocks, curtains, feather dusters, brooms, etc.) and a few toys.  In the room to the right side with the arched doorway, they sold Levi's jeans and Key overalls.  You can't see it in the photos, but there was a door near the back left of the store for entry from the side street.

The entire back portion of the store, beyond the wood stove, contained groceries.  Canned goods, baking staples and the like were on the shelves, but there was also a counter where they sold custom-sliced deli meats and cheese by the pound, and bottles of pop (not "soda", but "pop" on this side of the state).  Not the new-fangled screw-top plastic bottles, but the old-fashioned pop-top kind.  And oh, the candy!  There were a couple of yards of countertop devoted just to candy!  I'm told the original owners sold plows and other larger farm implements in the grassy lot behind the store.  My parents didn't sell those kinds of things, but in the spring, they sold garden seed in bulk, then in the fall, apples by the bushel, often stacked outside near the front windows. 

I helped out at the store once in a while, but I was in my teens and early 20s then and it was in the next town up the road from where we lived, so I didn't work there often.  My parents had other small stores then to tend to, as did my eldest sister, so my older brother ran this store.  After a decline in business -- all the seniors who loved the store in their youth were passing, and the younger crowd preferred to drive half an hour to the Wal-Marts, JCPenneys and large supermarkets of the world -- and my brother's need to move on, my parents finally closed the store and sold the building in the mid- to late-80s.  The fixtures were sold to collectors and the building sat vacant for a while, before eventually being razed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back On Top Of Things

It's amazing what antibiotics -- when you need them --  can do in a short amount of time.  Turns out that in addition to being in a blogging funk, I've been sick with a sinus infection.  It didn't get bad until this week, but I didn't realize how long I've been feeling less than stellar until I started feeling better this morning.  The 4-hour-long nap I took yesterday didn't hurt anything, either.

I'm sure that being under the weather had something to do with why I didn't feel like blogging, but I think it's also just that time of year for me.  When Kat goes back to school, I feel like putting my new-found free time to good use, and for whatever reason, that doesn't include blogging.

I've spent time organizing around the house, organizing my online recipe files, trying to get into solid school-year routines, canning, gardening and so on.  I feel a little better about my house now and decided to get a post up before not blogging becomes a habit.

I'm good to go -- at least for another month or two. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Unintentional Intermission

I hadn't planned for this break, but I might as well keep going now that I'm in the midst of it.  I'm trying to get back into the swing of school routines and get my literal and figurative houses in order.

I hope you'll stick around.  I'll be posting regularly again soon.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My New Blog

Since we're camping more often and many campgrounds now have wi-fi as an amenity, I've created a new blog to be our virtual scrapbook of our outings.

In addition to pictures and commentary about each of our trips, I'll also include tips for RVers, food ideas, campground reviews and links back to the Haphazard Homestead recipe index.

You can find the new blog at Haphazard Homestead On The Road, and it includes a post of our latest trip last weekend.

I hope you enjoy it!

Haphazard Homestead On The Road

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New 'Do, New Glasses, New School Year

I managed to get a couple of pictures of a non-cooperative Kat on her first day of 4th Grade.   The purple dress just happens to be her school color, and she decided at the last minute to wear tennies instead of sandals so that she wouldn't get gravel in her flip-flops at recess.

She got her hair cut in a cute bob a couple of weeks ago.  Her glasses frames broke irreparably on Tuesday night, so we rushed -- and spent beaucoup bucks - for a new pair at a one-hour place yesterday.  It was almost time for her yearly exam, so we did that, and got the glasses filled with a new prescription.  Some back-up glasses are going to be ordered from an online vendor very soon, so that we don't have to spend that kind of money again.

You probably can't tell from the photo, but the glasses are black on the outside surfaces, hot pink on the inside.  Very bold and very cute.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer's Winding Down

  • Shane and I enjoyed a weekend getaway in the camper. I'll write more about that later this week.
  • Kat has a quick back-to-school night on Tuesday, then classes begin on Thursday. Yes, already.
  • When we checked out teacher assignments, we learned that Kat's new teacher is named New Teacher. Hmm...seems a little late in the game to not know who's filling that position.
  • Looking forward to dinner out on Thursday with my good friend C. We've been friends since 5th grade. She invited all of us, but I may decide to ditch the family and make it a Ladies' Night Out. Used to be that would have meant heading straight for the bar, dancing and drinking until the wee hours, then somehow each of us making it to work the next day. Now a wild night means dinner, one cocktail (if any), a little conversation, and making back home and asleep by 10:00 -- and probably feeling it the next day all the same.
  • How dare you insinuate that we're getting old!

  • Our garden is down to just tomatoes and a couple of watermelons at the moment. We let the pinto beans dry on the vine and shelled those out last week. We completely missed our window of opportunity on picking corn; it got too tough and chewy to eat, but we are letting it dry on the stalk and will try making some cornmeal with it. Our few cucumbers were so bitter from the heat that we gave up and ripped them out. The green beans and zucchini that we planted along with the corn (Three Sisters planting) didn't produce a thing.
  • We're not done gardening yet, though. It's time for a fall planting!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Banana-Zucchini Bread (aka Bikini Bread)

Zucchini-Banana Bread

Shane requested some zucchini bread, so I dug out my tried-and-true recipe.  But I spied one over-ripe banana on the counter, so I added that.  And when I reached for the cooking oil and sugar, I saw the coconut oil and Sucanat, so I substituted those.  Sometimes when I can't leave well enough alone, I end up with something even better.

Here is the original recipe.  My changes are in red.

Zucchini-Banana Bread

Banana-Zucchini Bread

1 large egg
1 cup sugar (1 cup Sucanat)
1/2 cup oil (1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated zucchini
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 cups flour (I use a 50/50 mix of white and whole wheat)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional) (I didn't have any this time)

Heat oven to 325°F. Combine ingredients in the order listed. Spread batter into loaf pan sprayed with pan spray.  Bake at 325°F.  Bake 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Makes 1 loaf.

To make bars instead, spray an 8-inch square pan with pan spray.  Bake at 325°F for 35 minutes.  Cut into 16 bars.  Bars come out lighter and fluffier than loaves.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I'm Just a Blip on the Radar

Just a quick fly-by to say I might be scarce this week. Kat has been under the weather since Saturday night, I have tomatoes and other good things coming in from the garden that need to be worked up, I need to go vote, and I need to get ready for another weekend camping trip.

We're trying something different this time out.  Instead of camping in a state park or Corps of Engineers campground like we usually do, we're staying in an independently owned RV resort.  It used to be a private club but has recently been opened to the public and boasts a few more amenities that the state parks.  It's called Lake Paradise; I'll let you know if it's all it's cracked up to be.

We sold our travel trailer over the weekend, which was a relief.  This late in the summer, I was beginning to worry that we'd have to overwinter it (and make payments on it) until next season.  And just so I don't confuse you further, we sold the newer, but smaller, trailer that we bought last summer.  The older, but bigger, 5th wheel camper we bought a couple of months ago is still safely tucked in our side yard between trips.  It's doing a great job doubling as a a sunshade for many of our garden beds.

I just love happy accidents like that.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Stop The Madness!

It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world out there in the land of nutrition and healthy eating.  Sometimes we just need a little perspective.

Another great post by Erica of Northwest Edible Life.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Accidental" Cajun Chili

While I can eat chili any time of the year, it wasn't what I had set out to make for supper last Saturday.  My original intent was to make a Cajun Beans and Rice dish.  But after adding this, subbing that, and adding a few other things, I came up with something much more like chili.

I was with it enough to actually write down what I was doing so I can share this with you -- and make it again sometime.  Kat wasn't here to give it a try, but Shane and I really enjoyed it, regardless of it being the "wrong" time of year for chili.

If you don't like okra, try adding fresh or frozen chopped spinach.  If you don't have quinoa, use rice instead.  Feel free to make your own changes and make this recipe your own!

Cajun-Style Chili

Annie's Cajun Chili

1 pound pork breakfast sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 pint (or 15 oz. can) black-eyed peas with liquid
2 pints water
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoons each of oregano and thyme
2 teaspoons low-sodium Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon each celery salt and celery seed
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/2 pound frozen okra
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup dry quinoa

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, crumble and fry pork sausage with onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook until sausage is no longer pink.  Drain fat from mixture, leaving a tablespoon or so of fat in the pan for flavor.

Stir in all remaining ingredients and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until quinoa is tender and about half of liquid is absorbed.  Serve immediately or cover and let simmer for an hour or more to further develop flavors.

Serve with desired chili fixings such as cheese, sour cream, crackers, tortilla chips, etc.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fudgy Double-Chocolate Brownies

I was asked to bring brownies to a get together over the weekend, so I made these.  They were a hit with everyone there.

If you like a more cake-like brownie, try reducing the eggs to just 2.

Homemade Brownies

Fudgy Double-Chocolate Brownies

1-1/8 cups semi-sweet chocolate chip
1 stick butter, cut into chunks
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1¼ cups sugar (can use white, organic, Sucanat, etc.)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour (can use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour + 1/2 cup white flour)

Place an oven rack in middle position and preheat the oven to 350° F.  To make serving easier later, line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil.  Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

In a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate chips and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth.  Set aside to cool.  This step can be done in a microwave oven, but you must stir frequently to prevent over-cooking.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until well blended.  Whisk in the warm (not hot) chocolate mixture until incorporated.  Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly..  Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it.  This can vary from oven to oven, so begin checking at 35 minutes.  My oven took a long 50 minutes to cook completely, but yours may be done sooner.

Cool brownies in the pan on a wire rack for about 2 hours. Remove the brownies in foil from the pan and place on a cutting board.  Remove the foil and cut into squares as desired.  Add frosting or embellishments (like these little cow-shaped sprinkles) as desired. Store in an air-tight container. 

Homemade Brownies

Makes 12 to 16 brownies.

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