Monday, February 27, 2012

January, check.

So back in December (I think it might have even just been the day after Christmas), I decided that 2012 would be the year I finally make Christmas gifts for people. And not only that, but I would make one a month all year long so that by December, the only thing I'll have to think about (apart from the world ending, of course) is wrapping them up and enjoying the season with my family.

I felt very proud of myself.

So wouldn't you know it that just making the plans doesn't mean it actually happens. Funny how that works - I actually had to MAKE the gifts. So January went by without anything actually happening.
I finally got my rear in gear this month, locating local beeswax to make my first assignment: lip balm (thanks to Amanda @ Soulemama for inspiring me!)

I only made a dozen tins for now, but I've been giving it a test run this week, and I LOVE it - four ingredients (beeswax, honey, coconut oil, and peppermint essential oil), but it's so luscious and smooth I almost want to snack on it.

Amanda listed the ingredients by tablespoon, which is a little tricky to measure when you have a solid like beeswax, so I converted them to grams since I have a kitchen scale, which worked much better for me. Here are the conversions if you feel so inclined:

Peppermint Lip Balm
110 grams of coconut oil
45 grams beeswax
21 grams honey (preferably raw and local!)
30 drops essential oil
Follow the directions here

Next up: hand soap! Thank you, Pinterest, for giving me this great idea that I might even be able to get done by the end of the month, and hence get back on track for my Christmas gifts! I love that site and have even started a "made!" board for all of the stuff that it's inspired me to create already.

I'm always up for new and interesting gifty projects for the rest of the year - if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, February 20, 2012

an ode to oats.

So anyone who's living in Maine right now knows that is hasn't been much of a winter. I'm still holding out for at least one tromp around in my snow shoes, but I'm not holding my breath.
It's a pretty big bummer, and even a little scary to see what the weather's been up to (epic snow in Italy for the first time in 25 years, 50 degrees here. huh?), but I'm forging ahead and pretending it's the kitchen anyway, even if the view out the window says differently. The crock pot has seen some serious action over the past few weeks, there's a big pot of beans bubbling on the stove right now, I've been baking bread like it's my job, and spending lots of time with the quintessential winter breakfast time star - oats - in many forms.

 Just before Christmas, I got Super Natural Every Day  by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame. I've long admired her food and photography and have been heading in the more-whole-food-less- meat direction for a while, so when she published this one, it was a no-brainer, even though I really *should* have been buying presents for everyone else (but hey, I can make them happy all year long with this book!!! Man, I'm good at justification. Too good).

So this morning, I got to start my day with this lovely recipe: baked oatmeal. The original recipe calls for huckleberries, but as it's not exactly huckleberry season, I got to bust into the five pound bag of blueberries in my freezer (making room for $1/pound shrimp, methinks!). There's also a layer of bananas at the bottom of the pan that get all jammy in the baking process - there's only about 1/3 cup sugar in the recipe, and it's plenty sweet thanks to the fruit.. The original version has walnuts, but I had sliced almonds on hand, so that's what you can see in the photo. Cannot recommend this cookbook highly enough. We've only made a few recipes out of it, but it's a definite keeper.

Oh oats, how I love thee - let me count the ways - how about granola?
I've been meaning to make granola for years, but didn't bite the proverbial bullet until a month or so ago when I found this recipe on Tastespotting (it's all your fault, Vanessa!!!), and I've been hooked ever since. There is a *bit* of sugar in it...not counting the chocolate and dried cherries (can't resist a dried cherry and almond combo), but that makes it a perfect ALMOST guilt-free dessert. The first version I made was perfect - big clusters that I could grab right out of the jar - but I haven't been able to replicate it (probably because I keep trying to cut down on the sugar, which is what's keeping the clusters together in the first place. hm).  I'm eventually going to try to find another, less sugary, more clustery version, but for now, I'm in a pretty good granola place. If you have a good oatmeal you'd like to share, I'm all ears! 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

assignment two, check! (plus extra credit!)

I mentioned that I signed up for this class a while ago, and have just completed assignment #2 - cloth napkins!
Now, this was not exactly the most complicated assignment ever - I probably could have done it without the pattern - but would I have? All signs point to "nope".
So here are my cloth napkins and a matching table runner (which could probably have been a little narrower, but I was overzealous). I looove the pattern and think they dress up our table so nicely...
The table itself is a new addition to our house - the kitchen is so tiny that for the past 8 months, we've lived with the tiniest table ever which was not really big enough for two people to eat at, so we mostly ended up eating on the couch, which meant we were usually eating in front of an episode of something-or-other on hulu.  It had to stop.
So earlier this week, I bit the bullet and assembled this Ikea table and it is AMAZING the difference it's made. No more eating in the living room, of course, but there are all sorts of bonuses I hadn't considered: there's now a place for me to put down laundry when it comes out of the dryer, it served as an ironing board and cutting surface this morning for my lovely new table duds, and...AND we might actually be able to consider hosting a dinner party again! This sucker will comfortably seat 4-6 as is, but it has TWO more leaves, which means we could hypothetically seat TEN people! Now, whether that many people can even fit in our tiny house is another story, but it's such a relief to have TWO new spaces in this house - it makes life here much nicer.

If you have good eyesight, you can see Mr. Finn supervising Mama in the second shot.
Hope you had a productive weekend, too!

Monday, February 13, 2012


Well, that was one heck of a weekend.
One whirlwind trip to the mainland, a visit from my Mom, three performances of "Annie Get Your Gun", and a partridge in a pear tree later, and I am beat! In the mere three hours I had on Friday, I was able to get to the Goodwill, the grocery store, the co-op, the fabric store, the florist, Archipeligo, and Hello Hello, before dashing back to the boat and surprising my Mom as she sat in her car. Phew!
What do I have to show for my trouble? A whole heck of a lot!  I found an awesome and perfect (not to mention $6) chair for my nook, some fabric for couch pillows (the red plaid), a flannel crib sheet for Finn (the blue stripe), and a great print (is that paisley?) for a table runner and my second Home Ec assignment - fabric napkins. Can't wait to get started on those once I get these grants out the door!
fabric and sweet chair score

I was also able to pick up a few more pantry ingredients for the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse that I'm hoping to do at some point in the next few months - it requires a bit more planning to get things like white miso, bok choy, black cod, and soba noodles when you live on an island. It's nice to be able to spread out the purchases, though - there were quite a few items I didn't have, and buying it all at once would definitely have broken the bank.
a sweater!
The final performance of Annie Get Your Gun was yesterday, and I was charged with picking up the presents for our fabulous crew - flowers and chocolate, of course! But not just any chocolate - Black Dinah chocolate! I can't wait to dig into the caramel assortment box I got for our Valentine's Day treat! While I was at Archipeligo, I also got to pick up buttons for the sweater I made last week and sent it off to it's birthday recipient this morning (love you, kt!).

There are few gifts (in my humble opinion) that are better than gift certificates to seriously awesome places, and so it was with one for Hello Hello burning a hole in my pocket since my birthday in December that I found out the the proprietor had thoughtfully created a used book section dedicated to all things down home, do-it-yourself, eco-friendly, and small scale farming - heaven! I got to pick up one book that's been on my wish list, and another that I'd never heard of, but that I can hear calling me from it's place on my bookshelf (just a couple more days til the grants are off and I can spend my "free" time browsing  and dreaming!)

On Saturday morning, I dashed across the street to the French Club's rummage sale and found a sweet cylindrical pillow form (like the ones I'd seen priced for about $20 the day before), and now I have no excuse to not make at least one pillow this week...after the grants, after the grants.
Oh, and I totally scored a copy of "Where the Wild Things Are" this morning for $1.50 at our local second hand bookshop. Finn is going to love it - I can't wait!

In the meantime, I'm going to find the time to work some  more on another version of the sweater that might actually fit me, make some lip balm, do my homework, and chicken-sit for a friend (if I can't have my own yet, at least I can hang out with them!). Ah, it's good to have my life back!

Friday, February 10, 2012


I did it - I really did it!
For those of you who don't know, we live in the tiniest house. Teeny tiny.
Now, I'm a girl who loves small spaces and organization - everything MUST have a home (even if it's not necessarily there all the time). Living here with one other person was cozy - living here with one other adult and one fairly small person is okay so far, but I think after next year - especially once Finn starts getting seriously mobile - we're going to need to upgrade.
For now, though, we've basically signed on to be in the wee house until Spring of 2013, by which point (fingers crossed!) there will be a suitable piece of land or house to buy within our budget on Vinalhaven (a girl can dream!).
We made this decision last week, and I've spent the last few days plotting ways to make our space work better for us. Two things I really, really want:
1. A craft space/office.
2. A dining table that doesn't feel like an afterthought.
Still working on #2, but we're getting there...
In the meantime, I thought and thought and thought, did some measuring to see if there's a way to move our couch from where it is so that it doesn't block a window (no dice), and finally had the stunning realization that I could turn the bookcase perpendicular to the wall instead of flat against it, and voila! A little nook was born!
It's still very much in it's infantile stages. One of the things I'm hoping to find today at Goodwill or this weekend at the French Club rummage sale is a chair, and Chad's already volunteered to make a little ell bit that makes more work and storage space along the adjacent wall.
The bookcase is one that my grandfather made for my grandmother as a wedding gift (how romantic!), and one of the best parts for me is that in addition to it making a perfect partition, the shelves are so deep that I'm able to use the backs of them for storage in the nook!

More pics to follow as I settle a bit more in the space, but just wanted to share my new little nest!

PS, spoiler alert!: This is my chopping bowl turned knitting storage with a finished sweater on top! It wound up being too small for me, but that's just fine because one of my very favorite people in the world has a birthday next week, and I think she'll REALLY like it :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

getting away

Ahhh, I feel so happy an inspired recently! I've really been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather (even though it's super, super scary that it's 50 degrees in February in Maine), but I just can't help it. The play that I'm in is coming together and will be over at this time next week. I'm knitting up a storm on the sweater that I'm (finally) making for myself, and my Mom is coming out on Friday for a long weekend, so I'm going over to the mainland to meet her. Oh wait, that was going to be a surprise. I hope she doesn't read this..

Actually, I think my joviality (word?) has more to do with that last part than anything else. It's been over a month since we've been off the island and I'm beginning to go a little bonkers. I'm excited to use the gift card I got for my birthday to treat myself to a nice lunch at a cafe, go to the co-op and get some whole foods for the course I'm taking, and wander around the Goodwill for second hand cookware that I can dedicate to soap/candle/body care-making

Two pounds of Maine beeswax came in the mail yesterday, and I'm itching to give lip balm a go (recipe here)!  I'm also secretly hoping to find some fabric (maybe an old sheet at the Goodwill?) that I can repurpose into some couch pillows...something just right for an afternoon nap, methinks. I think my next project is going to be a cutting board, though - maybe out of some island spruce? Just have to find the right piece of wood....

It's such a luxury to be able to wander around the "real" world for just a little while - I'm taking the 8:45 over, and the 1:00 back, so that gives me 3 hours - just enough time to run a few errands, but not so much that I'll get into trouble :)  Finn is going to stay here as that's RIGHT in the middle of his morning nap time...which means over 2 & 1/2 hours of travel time, baby-free - I'm itching to bring my knitting, but I think I'll be good and work on the grants that are due next week instead...

First, though, I want to find a piece of wood to make a cutting board! Ours is old and warped and rocks when I chop stuff on it (which is not exactly the safest idea ever). I'm hoping that I can find a piece of island spruce at the wood mill on the island - maybe even a bit with some bark still left on it. I'm really excited about it and found what looks like a super easy tutorial (mine will just be square, not the bottle shape).

I'm excited to try a new popcorn recipe involving honey and salt and will post when I've got the proportions right - sweet and salty, who doesn't like that?

Yippee, yay, and yahoo for simplification!