Archive for January, 2010


Recipe Source:  The Handy Reliable Cook Book   Recipe Date: 1892

“A lady’s taste and nicety are very perceptible at the breakfast table.  She should never allow a soiled table-cloth to appear on it.  The linen should be fresh and snowy white, the tea, coffee, or cocoa, nicely made, and, if possible, fresh flowers and fruit should adorn the table.”  pg. 30

Thus begins the breakfast section of the “Handy Reliable Cook Book”   She goes on to speak of how the lack of these niceties, along with poorly cooked food, “are enough to derange both the temper and digestion of those who have to submit to such domestic inflictions.”  I wonder what Mrs. Jane Warren would think of our hastily eaten breakfasts in front of computer, tv screen, or with the pages of a book in front of my nose.  Perhaps I should find a tablecloth and flowers and give it a try, although  I am not sure that even a nice white tablecloth and prettily laid table would entice hubby to eat a big cooked breakfast in the morning…

The first recipe to catch my eye i8n this section was one labelled “German Toast.”  It’s similarity to French Toast was intriguing, the directions simple, and the ingredients handy.  It seemed like a good recipe for my first try.

German Toast

  • eggs
  • bread
  • milk

Cut thick slices of bread – baker’s is best.  Having no un-sliced bread in the house, and nothing that probably resembles the “baker’s” variety of 1892, I just used the pre-sliced from the grocery store.  Dip each side in milk enough to soften, then dip in beaten egg.

Fry in butter-greased pan till brown as an omelet, then serve, well sprinkled with white sugar.

They did brown up very nicely in the pan.  But whereas she states that 2 eggs should do me almost 12 slices of bread, I managed to use up one egg on these two slices.  Perhaps they should have soaked in the milk longer, or in the egg less.  I also have not used white sugar in years and don’t want to start now (how far back do I have to go to find recipes without this refined stuff?), so I served my toast with a little maple syrup and peach slices.

The final product – much moister than French Toast.  Syrup adds extra moisture that probably isn’t needed (I guess Jane knew what she was talking about with the sprinkled sugar) the peaches were a nice addition.  No worries of deranging my temper and digestion here.  Score one for Nanna’s cook book!  I would definitely make this again.  🙂

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I guess with a blog called “Laundry on the Line” it is about time I posted about laundry. 

A few years ago I was taking a First Aid class and over lunch the instructor and I were discussing chemical intolerances.  When I mentioned that I couldn’t stand walking down the detergent/cleaner isle of the grocery store because the smell alone gave me a headache,  she mentioned that she made her own laundry soap.  I had no idea this was even possible!  (So much has changed in a few years, I make all of my own cleaners now.) 

She quickly wrote out the recipe for liquid laundry soap from memory and I have used that same recipe ever since.  There were a few times when I have come across other recipes, some liquid, some dry, and I have tried them out, but this one, for me, has always been the best.

We have really dirty clothes at our house.  Hubby regularly visits old buildings, derelect attics and flooded basements, has been known to tramp through large pipes, gather muck and dirt at construction sites and tramp through muddy forests that will one day be subdivisions.  Our house is a zone for gardening, landscaping and renovation proects. We play hard and sweat a lot.  Despite it all, our clothes come out fresh and clean.  For a fraction of the cost of store-bought detergent.  Without the headache-inducing trip through the overly-perfumed laundry isle at the grocery store.

Convinced?  Want to try it?  Here is how to make your own liquid laundry soap.

Ingredients:  You will need a bar of soap (Sunlight bar soap works really well for this, I have tried some other soaps with poor results, although I would still prefer something less scented), washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda) borax, and water.

 Tools – you need a grater, a large pot, a spoon (I wouldn’t use a wooden spoon for this unless you are going to designate it as a “soap only” spoon) a 2 gallon bucket, a funnel (you can make your own from a pop bottle), and some containers to put the finished soap in (any empty jugs will do – I use two vinegar jugs and a couple of dish detergent bottles).

Step 1 – grate 1/3 of the bar of soap

Step 2  Pour 6 cups of water into large pot on the stove.  Add soap and stir over low heat until the soap has dissolved.

Step 3  Add 1/2 cup of borax and 1/2 cup washing soda.  Stir until thick. Remove from heat.

Step 4  Add 4 cups of hot water to the bucket.  Pour in your soap mixture and stir until combined.

Step 5  Fill bucket with cold water and mix well.  (I have a 3 gallon bucket so I only fill it 2/3 full). 

Set aside for 24 hours.

Step 6  Place a funnel inside your soap container.  I made my funnel by cutting the top off a 2L pop bottle.

Ladle the finished laundry soap into your bottle.  Repeat with more containers until all the soap is stored.

To use, shake the mixture well.  Add 1/2 cup to each load of laundry.

Variations  You can add a few drops of essential oils to your soap.  I don’t do this anymore, but in the past I have added lemon for scent, and tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil for bacteria-killing. 

Fabric Softener

I never saw the need for fabric softener until I started hanging my clothes to dry outside.  I don’t know what causes it, but our clothes would come off the line stiff as a board.  As much as I loved the fresh smell of line-dried clothes, the underwear and pants that would stand up on their own was a little off-putting.  So, off to the internet for research and I discovered an easy, chemical-free, and cheap fabric softener:1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle did the trick.  A Downey ball I found on eBay makes the job even easier.  No more crunchy clothes.

Anyone else make their own soap or have frugal or chemical-reducing laundry tips?

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When my grandmother passed away, she left me all of her fabric.  She actually started giving it to me several years ago, boxes of it, every time I came for a visit.  And each time I left with a box my grandfather would say “surely you could take a little more?”

And now that I have her stash, and my stash (minimal though that is), I really have more fabric than I know what to do with.  And I didn’t even take all of it.  Maybe half….she had a lot! 

I can’t lay a baby quilt on the floor of my sewing room anymore.  Too many boxes.  And I try not to think about the boxes and bags piled in the basement.  But since they block the way to the washing machine, I know I am going to have to deal with them.  Soon.

Thus begins project number two – to find uses for my grandmother’s fabric.  For someone who likes to sew, it sounds easy.  I have no problem with the cottons – quilts, here I come!  But the others…..the others I picked out because I liked them for one reason or another, but I am not exactly sure what my grandmother was thinking when she bought them – except that it was a long time ago and styles were different then.  Here is a sampling:

This is a beautiful thick wool.     But what does one make with beautiful thick wool in these particular colours?

These flowers are so sunny and cute.  But poly-cotton.  Hmmm….

This one reminds me a bit of stained glass.  But it is thick and stiff…

Ok, I really love this one.  I love the wildness of it.  I love the bright colours.  And it’s shiny.  100% polyester.   I love that my grandmother was the kind of woman who bought fabrics in wild patterns and bright colours.  I really want to know what she was planning to make out of this!   I probably would have worn this as a teenager but my style is a little more subdued now (which is probably a good thing as I can imagine the impression I would make if I wore something made out of this fabric to work….I would definitely get some comments from my students).  I can’t help thinking it would make a great lining for….well…something.

I love this one too.  But it’s a strange fabric.  Nylon maybe?

Yeehaw!  Who doesn’t like hot pink bandana fabric?!  This one had a big chunk cut out of it, I wonder what she used it for?

And this is not even the tip of the iceberg.  So it looks like I will be spending the next year cooking my great-grandmother’s food and sewing with my grandmother’s fabric.  Nostalgic, yes, but I guess that’s just the kind of girl I am.

  I expect I will be working on this project for the next few years…or more.  I don’t have to use every last scrap, mind you, just have to get it down to a size that will fit in the sewing room.  If I made it through 5 or 6 of the boxes, that might just do it!  (Like I said, this is going to take awhile…)   If you have any suggestions for things to make with these fabrics, let me know!

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If you have been reading my posts for a while, you may remember this large pile of my great-grandmother’s recipes that my mother and I went through over Christmas and that I stashed a few gems in my suitcase before flying home.  Among all of the recipes for making jellied salads with cold tongue and cookies and desserts with boatloads of shortening, I found this:

This book was published in Canada in 1897.  This was before my great-grandmother was even born.  Jello and shortening did not exist.  Neither did cake mixes, white bread, or any other chemical convenience foods in a box.  All of the ingredients were readily available to people who live in this country, without spending hours on a plane to get here.  It is the original “slow foods/eat local”  book, back when that was really the only option.   I love this cookbook. 

So here is the project.  This year I am going to cook from my great-grandmother’s recipes.  I will explore the recipes from the “Handy Reliable Cook Book.”  I will also sift through the pile of newspaper recipes from the 1940s and the recipes in my own great-grandmother’s writing.  Like this one:  (notice the lack of title and directions, anyone know what this might be?)

 I am not going to make all the recipes, and I am going to have to adapt many of the recipes (a gill of “morning milk” is not something that is readily available in my neck of the woods) but I am going to do my best to recapture some of the recipes from the past. 

So thus begins my first blog project.    The good, the bad, and the seriously funny (I am expecting I will make a lot of mistakes as I attempt this…) will all be recorded here for the world to see (or, rather, the parts of the world that actually read what I write on a regular basis – thanks for being here!).  These posts will, of course, be interspersed with my ramblings on all of my other projects, and in my “you can never have too many projects going on all at once” attitude I am also going to assign myself a big sewing project, also a bit of a historical one, but more on that another day. 

So, with my glass of fresh milk raised high (figuratively speaking, of course, that stuff is illegal here now) I begin a year of learning the art of “commonsense cookery” under the tutelage of the “Handy Reliable” and my very own great-grandmother.  I wonder what she would think if she knew.

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New Fabric

I have a special project that I am working on and had to go and purchase some new fabric before I could get started.

Hubby came with me and we discovered that despite being colour blind he is pretty good at helping to pick out some pretty nice colour combinations.  Take a look at these:

I just love the trees.  And the textures.  I can’t wait to dive into this project.   

When I was having my fabric cut I was informed that the corduroy was “buy one meter get two free”  which is a great sale if you need lots of corduroy, but I didn’t.  So the sales lady told me I could have two meters of anything else I wanted, as long as it had the “buy one get two” sign above the rack.  I actually heard my very patient husband groan.  It was late, I was hungry, hubby was hungry, I was happy to have found the fabric I wanted in a good amount of time (making decisions is not my forte).  I don’t need any more fabric in my sewing room that falls into the category of  “nice fabric but what I am ever going to do with it?”    I actually considered leaving the store without the extra fabric. 

I know.  I almost turned down free fabric.  I’m not sure what I was thinking….

In the end I found this:

It’s twill.  And I needed some twill for another project I’m working on. 

And then I found this:

Truth be told, I don’t have a plan for this one.  But I liked the colours.  And it’s cotton.  And it was free.  And maybe, just maybe,  it will go with one of those other random pieces of fabric in my stash?  One can hope, right?

And then hubby picked out this fabric for the curtains in his office:

The man has taste.  It was the most expensive fabric we purchased that night.  It will look nice in his office though.  And a reward too small for a man who comes to the fabric store with me.  I am a lucky girl!

The sewing room awaits!

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It was “clean out the freezer” week at my house.  At the beginning of the summer, when my freezer was almost empty, I had meant to start a freezer inventory list so I could keep track of what was in there.  Alas, I didn’t, at some point figuring “I won’t forget I put this in here.”  Well, surprise, surprise, months go by and I don’t remember that I cooked a turkey in July and put the carcass in the freezer ready for stock, along with bags of white and dark meat, along with a host of other things which I really wish I had labelled  – there is a big difference between ketchup and tomato sauce!

While I was in there discovering turkey and miscellaneous jars of red substances, I also found bags of last year’s zucchini, right on top of the huge pile of this year’s zucchini, which reminded me that I need to do some zucchini baking. 

So I went online searching for a somewhat healthy zucchini cake and found this recipe.  And because I can’t leave well enough alone, and because I am trying to cut down on my refined sugar use, I made a few little changes.

The verdict:  I love it, my hubby likes it, and we ate half a cake at one sitting (well, there goes the healthy part…..)

Here is my version:

Apple Upside Down Zucchini Cake

  • 2 sliced peeled apples
  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup corn meal (I used finely ground because that’s all I had on hand)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen shredded zucchini, well drained
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan, line with parchment paper and grease.
  2. Lay apple slices on the bottom of the pan.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.
  4. In another bowl, stir together the wet ingredients.
  5. Add wet to dry and stir just until mixed.
  6. Pour batter over the apples.
  7. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until done.  Cool for 5 minutes before releasing from the pan.
  8. This is yummy at all temperatures. 

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Fantastic Fiction for Kids

I am the “Fantastic Fiction For Kids” contributor on Playing by the Book today!  Hop on over to check out my recommendations for books on the sewing/quilting theme.  While you are there you may want to check out some of Zoe’s other posts – she has wonderful book reviews and is always doing something fun and creative with her kids.

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Breakfast is my absolute favourite meal of the day.  I don’t know whether it is because I am just extra hungry in the morning or whether it’s just the heartiness of the foods I choose to eat, but breakfast just seems to taste better than any other meal.  Pancakes are my absolute favourite, but I also adore muffins, oatmeal, eggs cooked any way, fruit salads, granola, yogurt, smoothies, toast with peanut butter melting onto it, fried potatoes – makes me wish it was morning all the time!

The unfortunate part of rushing around in the morning trying to get ready for work (Did I mention that I woke up this morning at 8:00?  That’s 10 minutes AFTER I am supposed to be at school and at the moment that my class starts to show up in my classroom…lucky for me I have a very wonderful and understanding principal whose wife also missed her alarm clock this morning…) is that I don’t always have take time for a big breakfast. 

Enter quick and hearty breakfast meals.  Like French Toast.  The fruited (I know, “fruited” isn’t really a word but I’m not sure how else to describe it) syrup makes use of the large amount of berries and peaches I packed into my freezer this summer along with yummy maple syrup from the farmer’s market.  Quick, yet satisfying in a “Sunday morning brunch” kind of way. 

French Toast

1 egg    milk of any kind (soy, rice, cow’s, whatever)    2 slices of bread

(for more than one serving just double or triple the number of eggs)

Beat the egg in a shallow bowl (your bread should fit nicely into the bottom without the edges curling up).  Beat in about an equal portion of milk.  If you really have a sweet tooth you can add a little maple syrup here, I don’t bother anymore.  Warm up a frying pan on the stove and add a little oil or butter to prevent sticking.  Drop your bread in the egg mixture until it soaks up some egg mixture (turn it over if you need to) and use a fork in the corner of the bread to pick it up and plop it in the pan.  Repeat with the second piece of bread.  Flip the bread over when it is brown on one side.  When both sides are brown – time to eat.

This is good with a number of toppings (maple syrup or molasses being the most traditional).  Lately I have been making syrup with fruit (thanks to Mom for the idea).  Here’s how to do it:

Place some maple syrup in a small frying pan or sauce pan.  Add some berries or chopped peaches or both.  Cook until warm and bubbly.   Yep, that’s it.  Nothing standing between you and some yummy fruited syrup but a few minutes in front of the stove (and since you have to be there to cook the french toast anyway, why not?)

If you have any quick and hearty breakfast ideas I’d love to hear them!

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My reports are finally finished, our home office has been tidied from the piles of student writing and assessment notes that littered the floor,  and I feel as if I am back in the real world again! 

In amongst the craziness of last week (made even more crazy in that my hubby has been very busy working on kitchen renos – it looks awesome but I have been without counters and sink in my kitchen for two weeks!) I managed to snap a few photos. 

In the last week or so:

I discovered this site and attempted 3 days of drinking green smoothies.  Once I got over the concept (I like spinach, but blended?  Really?) I discovered some combinations I really liked (and, truth be told,  some I absolutely loathed.)  The recipes I like I am keeping as alternatives for school lunches – the days I am on lunch duty I often only have time to eat half my lunch – smoothies will be a great way to eat something nourishing quickly, so that I am not always so hungry at the end of the day!

Ginger Pear Green Smoothie

I made a basket of healthy cookies for my friend’s birthday(we spend most of our time talking about food, and how to “clean up” our favourite recipes, so it seemed fitting), and made recipe cards for the cookies as well as a bunch of other recipes I knew she would enjoy.  The cookie recipes were found here and I must say I was really pleased with how they turned out. 

Maple Flax Cookies

Coconut Macaroons

All wrapped up and ready to go!

Being without a sink and counter, I have been using the kitchen table as a food prep surface and washing my dishes…..

in the tub!  I must say I got a lot of exercise as I dried each dish and carried it to the kitchen to be put away.  Small price to pay for a new sink and counters in the kitchen – I’ll post pictures when it is all done.  In the grand scheme of all the things going on in the world today, I’m just happy to have running water anywhere in my house, aren’t you?

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New Book Love – Sew Liberated

Yesterday, after picking up all our keys from the neighbours who looked in on the place while we were away, we were finally able to get our mail.  Among the Christmas cards (yay!) and bills (boo!) there were a few items that I have been anxiously waiting for, including this book that I won through Sew, Mama, Sew:

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this book!  There are so many great projects that I hardly know where to start.   It’s one of those sewing books where you drool over every picture (well, not literally drool – that would kind of make a mess of the book, but you know what I mean) and then read every word that introduces each project, and come away thinking “Wow, that author sounds like a really cool person, I wish I knew her.” 

I am itching to get to the sewing room and start some new projects, One Yard Wonders is waiting for me there too with more of those drool-worthy pictures and fabulous ideas. 

But it is not meant to be this week.   It is home report writing time at school and so I will spend my evenings and week-end with my bottom in a chair, staring at a computer screen and typing away, telling the parents of my wonderful class that, despite all of their individual quirks and difficulties, their children are pretty amazing, which they probably already know, but don’t mind me telling them again. 🙂   Report writing is a time-consuming part of my job, but it always reminds me just how much I love all of my students and I really do enjoy being able to share that with their parents.  Meanwhile I will dream about all the projects I can tackle once they are all written and out of my hands. 

If you want to know more about the book, you can check out a preview of Sew Liberated here, and take a peek at Meg’s blog too!

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