last christmas one of rudi’s friends gave him several compartmentalized meal containers (yeah, it seems weird when you look at it like that, but it made sense at the time). they have been sitting in the cupboard for months, and then in a burst of inspiration coupled with a burning desire to not spend good money on bad food, i had an idea: i made lunchables.
4 pieces of cheese, 4 pieces of ham (real ham, not “ham product”), 4 crackers wrapped in plastic, 4 slices of apple, and a reasonably-sized piece of homemade brownie wrapped in plastic and presented on a silicone muffin cup, because everything presented that way seems opulent to an 8-year-old.
i wrapped the crackers so they wouldn’t get soggy or stale in the fridge. to make it easier to open the wrap on the crackers and the brownies, i slipped in a little piece of post-it note for a pull tab.
while i was wrapping the crackers, i floated the apple slices in some water with lemon juice to keep them from browning.
the total cost for all five meals (ella was eating one while i took pictures) was less than the cost of one purchased, pre-made lunchables meal, and i can control exactly what goes into the ones i make. sure, they are still kind of junky, but at least it is homemade junk.
*what’s been happening in your kitchen?
this box, like all the others, is made from wood salvaged from discarded pallets. i neglected to get any pictures of me doing it, but suffice it to say, i broke a drill bit and i may or may not have said some of the 7 dirty words.
anyhoo—the herbs here are dwarf lavendar, thyme, dill, sage, chives, chamomile, rosemary, and purple basil. along the back of the box are also four baby sunflower plants—because i like sunflowers.
the card hanging from the door of the LFL was sent to me by the LFL folks when i requested a sign. it just tells a little about the movement and about how to become involved.
up next—plant ID cards and a little special notebook with info about gleaning!
in which the blog author learns that, 1) she CAN use power tools; and 2) she CAN’T use power tools.*
the gleaning gardens seemed like the perfect compliment to our little free library. i’ll tend the gardens, and others who are interested are welcome to come by and learn to tend a garden as well. anybody who needs or wants the food that grows in the gleaning gardens is welcome to it. each tuesday, i’ll place whatever is ready to harvest in the gleaning box, free for the taking. whatever is still there on wednesday afternoon will go to the neighborhood food pantry for distribution.
we think of them as our candle gardens, because we decided to light a candle rather than to curse the darkness.
i choose the plants to grow in the gardens based on what i thought would be readily acceptable to most people's tastes, easy to grow even for beginners, a range of appealing textures and colors, and likely to produce a plentiful harvest.
this is the east box. some transplants raised from seed, some direct seeded and not yet sprouted. from left to right, main crop with companion planting: abe lincoln tomato with marigold, yard-long beans and royal burgundy beans with radish, lemon boy tomato with red rubin basil, zucchini squash with lettuce, bell pepper with red onion, eggplant with carrots.
this is the west box. some transplants raised from seed, some direct seeded and not yet sprouted. from left to right, main crop with companion planting: okr with garlic chives, papa's hot peppers with rainbow swiss chard, cucumber with nasturtium, cherokee purple tomato with lemon basil, yellow squash with yellow onions, roma tomato with marigold.
so of course, the big question is: why did i do all this?
there are so many needs in the world, and i can’t address them all. but i can give you a tomato, or a marigold. i can give you something to read for when you’re alone at night. i can give you a safe place to be quiet and consider the lilies. :) so i decided to just do it. we’ll see what happens.
*i CAN use power tools--just not the drill. ;) thus was born my new motto: "if you're really good with a hammer, turn every problem into a nail."
this is a project that has been keeping me up at night, but for a long time it was formless and i didn't know what it was. :) i just had a dream, then i heard a call, then i found a movement, and now we're in.
yesterday we opened our own little free library
on the street in front of our house.
first i found a cabinet at the habitat for humanity store
to use as the base structure.
i took off the doors and removed the weird plug inside. rudi cut the center panel out of the doors and inserted plexiglass.
he put a new exterior on the case, with the roof slanting backward to direct rainwater away from the doors.
we invited friends over and had a ribbon cutting ceremony, at which time
rudi placed the official LFL sign.
while i was telling our visitors during my ribbon-cutting speech that the library was on sawhorses because the utilities had not come by yet to mark their lines, the utilities came by and marked their lines. :) rudi dug the post holes last night and we’ll place them tonight. at that point the library will be permanent and open to the public, 24/7. i’ll plant some sunflowers and lilies around the base to help make it more inviting. our library number is #0548. once the library is on its posts, it will be listed on the little free library google map.
next week i’ll put a gutter on the back edge of the roof in order to catch rainwater for part 2 of this experiment: the gleaning gardens.
we usually plant our raised beds by themes.
ella’s chosen theme for her garden this year is “rainbow”.
today we started the following from seed in paper pots:
later this spring, we’ll start other rainbow veggie seeds directly in the garden:
*planting by theme helps us stay focused and sort out what to plant. letting ella choose a theme lets her be in charge of making her own decisions. how do you decide what to plant?
for several years, ella and i have started our seeds in paper pots that we made from newspaper.
as you can see, in the past we have made round pots by wrapping half sheets of newspaper around a jar and squishing the bottoms flat. this works fine but it leaves a lot of air around each pot and that makes them dry out much faster in the shoeboxes i use for germinating.
a plastic shoebox holds 10 paper pots, so i can fit more pots into the box. i water the pots thoroughly, cover the box with the lid that is on the table behind it, then set it out in the sun to allow the moisture to distribute evenly and to warm the soil. this evening i'll bring it in and we'll plant seeds!
the pot below is made from a solicitation we got in the mail from geico. when planted in the garden, this page will compost in place, effectively destroying our personal information and enriching the soil at the same time.
this week, which is the last week of january, i'm starting the first round of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks, head lettuce, onions, and parsley. i’ll stagger my seed starting so that i have plants to introduce to the garden weekly, thus ensuring that my harvest will be staggered as well. i try to plant enough for a week’s meals, plus enough to put up in canning/dehydrating/freezing (whatever is appropriate for the crop), and a little extra to give away as well.
*what gardening tasks, if any, are you doing these days?
each christmas, ella and i learn to make a new treat. this year it is caramels, or as we call them “carolines”, the name ella called them when she was little. they were ridiculously easy, but not the most kid-friendly project, due to the fact that boiling sugar is really, really hot and sticky. so i did the cooking, which as i mentioned was ridiculously easy because the advent goblins gave us this recipe for 6-minute caramels in the microwave.
the only things i did differently were that i cooked for 1 minute more, and i added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract during the last stir before pouring into the pan to cool. we made two batches—one we left as is, and the second i sprinkled kosher salt over the top after pouring into the pan.
the hardest part of this was cutting the candy—i think i waited a bit too long—but ella and i had fun wrapping them, because it gave ella the opportunity to play one of her favorite pretends, which is that we are makers being featured on “how it’s made”.
then we wrapped a dozen of each in wrapping paper—red for unsalted, green for salted…
packaged one of each type in paper bags with handmade christmas cards…
ella, dora, and i bundled up and we jingled a bunch of neighbors!
the whole afternoon, ella kept saying, “this is fun!”. she loves making presents and making surprises and making candy and making cards and this was all that rolled into one.
*what holiday food traditions do you and your family have?
today’s the big day, and ready or not, here it comes:
my new book, “An Everyday Advent: Meditations from the Heart of a Homemaker” is now available for purchase as an immediate PDF download! the book includes a meditation for each week of advent, several journaling prompts for each meditation, and an action suggestion for how to put your reflections and insights to work in your life.
as a special bonus, i’ve created a set of printable journaling pages to accompany the book, which is currently available FREE as my thank you gift to helping me along this journey.
please visit An Everyday Advent to learn more about the book, and i’d be very grateful if you would share the news and the link with your friends and family. you can also join the conversation and find additional resources throughout the season at the official An Everyday Advent Facebook Page.
thank you for your support!
no, you didn't miss it--i totally did not post any recipes. i've been completely pre-occupied with a project that i'm very proud to announce today: i've written a book! and it will be available to purchase right here on the blog starting at 9am on cyber monday!
it’s called "an everyday advent: meditations from the heart of a homemaker". this collection of essays is my story of trying to carry the spirit and meaning of the season of advent into my daily life--to connect on a household level with the message of the nativity.
the book includes meditations for each week of advent, journaling prompts for each meditation, and suggestions for how to put your own meditations into action in your life.
the book will be available here as a downloadable PDF, and on 1 december it will be available for the kindle and nook!
yes, this is really short notice--like so many things in an ordinary homemaker's life--so i'm going to need the help of every reader and visitor to this blog to get the word out! if you have a moment during your busy holiday weekend, please share this news with your friends and be ready to drop by for the big launch!
happy thanksgiving to all, i appreciate your support, now and throughout the year!