Using what you have

So, the other day, while my dear husband was sleeping, I decided I was going to build a table to go in front of one of my south facing windows so I could plant more plants indoors.  I have not yet been acquainted with my husband's power tools that he was given for Christmas (meaning- I was too scared to use them all by myself), and so I tried making said table with a saw, hammer, and nails.  While I know it can be done, I miserably failed.  It probably had something to do with the fact that I thought I could get away with having only 2 legs (what was I thinking..?)...Anyways, I then proceeded to wake my husband to tell him of my failure.  Being the wonderful man he is, he came to my rescue, and built me a nice little table.  It looks like this:

It's a rough looking little thing, but it serves it's purpose well, and I think it's cute.  The best part?  It didn't cost us a dime.  We scrounged around and got creative, and were rewarded with this little guy.  Using what we had made it so that Mr. Table only gets 3 legs, and we had to do some things the long way (putting in screws by hand, etc), but it all worked.

In general, we try to use what we already have, and make buying  something (especially new) the last resort.  That goes from everything to cooking to crafting to building to clothing.  Some of the best items, ideas, and food come from having to "make do".  :)



So, here's a great way to use some of that homemade butter:

Homemade Caramels!

My husband and I made these at Christmas for gifts, and although they turned out as a hard caramel instead of soft, like I was planning, they were so delicious!

I found the recipe from a 1936 candy making book entitled: "How to Make Candy" by Walter W. Chenoweth.  (good book by the way- taught me a lot)

Honey Caramels
3/4 lb (3/4 cup) brown sugar
1/2 lb (1 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 lb (2/3 c) corn syrup
1/4 lb (1/3 up) honey
1 ounce (2 TBL) butter
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

Procedure: Mix all the materials except the butter and vanilla, and cook by moderate to rapid boiling to approximately 230 degrees F, at which time add the butter and boil slowly to 36-37 degrees F above the temperature of boiling water on the thermometer being used, or to a medium hard ball by the water test.  Remove from the fire, and when the bubbles have subsided stir in the vanilla and pour into a very lightly buttered pan.  When cool remove from pan to cutting board, cut into suitable size pieces and wrap in waxed paper.
*This will give a caramel with a honey flavor and will have good keeping quality.

My notes: I think I overheated it just slightly, which just gave me a harder caramel- much like the conistency of CoffeeNips.  However, because of the different consistency, I had some issues with cutting and packaging.  Everything still turned out fine, but I would recommend waiting until they are COMPLETELY cool to wrap in waxed paper- I was impatient and was rewarded with paper stuck to a few of them.  Paper is edible, though, right? ;)

The bottom line is that these are very yummy, and you should make them- don't be intimidated! 
I'll be trying these again soon, and I will take pictures of the process then.



As the weather begins slowly but surely turning to Spring, my thoughts and plottings have been all about my garden.  We were in an apartment the last two summers, so this is the first place that we'll be able to have a garden.  We have big plans, as I'm sure many of you do as well.  One thing that will help make our plans a success is compost!  It is such a rich nutrient for plants, it's easy to do, and can be done for FREE.  What's not to like?  The hardest part is building the compost bin, which really isn't too hard at all.  Sunset.com has plans for some nice looking ones.  However, we wanted to build one without spending a dime, so this is what we came up with:

We rent our house from hay farmers, so there are always a bunch of old pallets lying around, so that's what my husband used for the wood- except for the back, which is an old wheelchair ramp that was lying around as well.  One could easily do something similar because I've heard some places will give you their pallets for free- just ask around.  We made 3 chambers so that once it gets going one chamber will have finished compost, one will be "cooking", and the other we will be adding to.

Do you have a compost bin? Planning on making on? Please share!


Homemade Butter!

When I was in Kindergarten, I remember Mrs. Lively taking us all into the kitchen one day, giving us a container with a milky substance in it, and telling us to shake it. And, shake it some more. And, more.
Then, all of a sudden the milky substance became clear-ish, and there was a lump in that container.
I re-lived that experience today, almost 20 years later.
Here is my lump:

All it took was a little heavy cream, a clean canning jar, and about 20 minutes of shaking.
Once it separated into butter and the (real) buttermilk, I poured the buttermilk into the bread dough I was starting, and rinsed the butter blob in cool water until it ran clear. Then, I put it in my butter dish and sprinkled it with sea salt. Now I'm just waiting for my bread to finish rising and bake so this beautiful butter can be enjoyed slathered on a warm, fresh piece of bread. Yum!

In the process of making the butter, it first turned to whip cream, and I don't think I will ever use a machine to make whipped cream again! It's just too much fun to shake it, and the clean up is easier, in my opinion.

Now, I just have to get my hands on some of the rich, yellow colored local cream from the dairy down the road and try this again...