Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homemade Cranberry Sauce in a Pinch

I have been getting into the habit of planning my menus weekly.  This goes hand in hand with my weight loss successes and being a little more organized; a passion of mine!  However, on this particular lunchtime day, as I was preparing my favorite sandwich of roast beef, brown mustard, havarti cheese, alfalfa sprouts, and a tablespoon or two of cranberry sauce, I noticed that someone had finished the smallish portion of cranberry sauce left in the fridge!

As my sandwich lay open and ready for it's crowning glory, I lamented on the lack of this very necessary condiment to achieve the perfection of flavor my taste buds demanded.  Suddenly I realized that I had a partial bag of whole cranberries in the freezer.  Could I whip up a passable sauce before my lovely flax seed bread dried out?  I was determined to try!

I knew that generally the sauce prepared on the stove took a while to simmer down into the perfect consistency of the sauce, however, I was not willing to wait that long!  Why not speed things up in the microwave oven?  I wasn't after a complex sauce using several spices coveting a spot on a Thanksgiving table, after all.  No, just a simple sauce of cranberries and a little sugar cooked down to nice jelled consistency.

I went for it!  I had about a cup of cranberries.  I added 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water and put it in the microwave for about 4-6 minutes.  I'd like to say I let it cool for a few minutes, but no, I was hungry after all!  I put ice cubes into a mixing bowl and set the dish of sauce into the ice and stirred like a maniac, begging it to cool quickly.  Eureka!  It worked!  Better yet, it was delicious...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hotel Treasures

My husband came across this amazing business in Lincoln Park called Mid American Salvage Company.  He talked me into checking it out when we were looking for a love seat/sleeper for our youngest daughter's dorm room.  This place is amazing!  They purchase contracts from upscale hotels that are ready to remodel and replace their decor and furnishings.  This company removes all the "old" furnishings, drapes, lamps, tables, TV's, refrigerators, etc and then moves in the new decor for the hotel.

They sometimes are allowed to hold a sale on site.  Then they truck everything left back to Lincoln Park.  Most of the time they must bring everything back without a pre-sale.  They sell everything at greatly reduced prices.  The furniture is quality; toting names like Broyhill among others.

We found the cutest love seat/sleeper and a matching oversize chair that pulls out into a single bed.  I put the chair into my art room.  I found the cutest Art-Deco style lamps and promptly replaced my living room lighting.  Another visit found us adding the cutest set of lamps and a mirror for the bedroom; not to mention a solid cherry bedside table!

As I said, these contracts are with high end hotels like Residence Inn, Hyatt, Dearborn Inn, and others.  I have never found or even suspected any issues regarding insects or vermin.  Everything is quality and clean.

The designs are top of the line, yet classic.  I doubt that quality ever goes out of style.  In fact, I told my husband that I would definitely consider replacing my living room furniture from one of their future contracts.  That is how impressed I was.  Here are a few pics showing some of the items we picked up for pennies on the dollar...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spring Chickens on the Rare Side!

If you want some of the rarer breeds of chickens in time for the spring/summer, you have to order in the middle of winter.  I just ordered 10 chicks of five different varieties.  Most of these are of rarer breeds.  Some of the reasons I chose them are because of their color, the abundance of eggs they lay, the color of eggs they lay, their personalities (all must be gentle and friendly), and a few because of how unusual or unique they are!
Black Copper Marans
Between seed catalogs and chick/poultry catalogs, I get very excited during the winter.  I try to hold back and order just what I need to replace hens that no longer lay....

White Sultans

This year I needed 6 hens.  I ordered 10!  When my husband suggested Turkeys, I was all for it!  He was thinking one or two for the freezer, but I was thinking the threatened Narragansett Turkeys that can still breed naturally and have babies, so we can have lots of turkeys - every year!  He said maybe we should wait and think it through. :(

Though, I understand his reasoning.  After all, we have three small coops/pens.  It is here I

must be very careful not to covet my neighbors poultry arrangement.  He has several HUGE, immaculate poultry barns with runs.  In fact, it is there that I sent my beautiful Sebastapol Geese to live when I was mistakenly sold more males than females and could not bear the fighting that entailed. I had no room to separate the poor fellows.

Thank God for Bruce who has the same passion for poultry that I do!  Every time I drive by, I crane my neck to check out his "spread" of barns, runs, recycled, yet pristine shelters, and perhaps a glance of Petrov or Rechenka....that's not really coveting is it?  I imagine our 40 x 60 foot barn turned into a poultry haven with a center aisle and outdoor runs that could house numerous varieties of chickens, ducks, geese, pheasants, and perhaps a few guineas to keep the ticks at bay!

O.K. back to reality.  Perhaps I ordered a few more hens than I actually needed.  Maybe my dream of poultry heaven must be pulled in to match my reality on earth, but one can dream!  That's what seed catalogs and poultry catalogs are for, right?

Buff Orpingtons

Silver Spangled Hamburgs

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Tiny Bit of Watercolor Happiness

I purchased this adorable little watercolor of Coreopsis at a resale shop in Saline on New Year's Eve. It had the name "Misco" and an Ann Arbor address on the back of the mat. Unbelievably, Shelby found the lady who painted it back in the 50's... who now lives in Maine with her husband and is active in the art community there! Shelby even found her address for me, so I can write to her and get a more exact date on when it was painted.

I wrote a letter to her about three weeks ago and have not heard back as yet.  I hope she writes back, as I really treasure the history or the story behind a piece of art, besides the art itself.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Year, New You...

I am excited about the prospect of new beginnings, trying new things, and freshening up my living areas.  Normally I don't make New Year's Resolutions, because they seem to peter out before the month of January ends.  This year I started some resolutions before January 1st!  Sounds weird?  Maybe, but I found that I focus on what is important to me, rather than what I think I "should" focus on.  There are two things that I began; one well before December and one in December.

I finally prioritized my artwork!  December was a great jumping off point for this, as I prefer to give handmade gifts rather than something purchased at an overcrowded store.  The time I spent creating each gift fulfilled my need to create and gave me some beautiful quiet time during the busy holiday season.  I still don't understand how I let housework, laundry, and the never-ending to do lists take precedence over my art.  Here are some of the pieces I created for Christmas gifts:

These Short story bracelets are made from recycled materials like dog food bags.
The containers to give the bracelets were made out of toilet paper holders and sprayed with Glimmer Mist and stitched closed.

Homemade tomato juice and dilly beans for my dad, complete with 50's/60's retro labels.

Potted Amaryllis and PaperWhite Narcissus for the neighbors.

Potted bulbs wrapped and ready to go.

Now I find it easy to spend five, fifteen, thirty minutes or more to work on a project or at least one step of a project in my daily life.  This has brought great peace and joy to my life.  I will not let go of it!  The laundry and housework will always be there....waiting!

The project that I started far before December was something that I struggled with for a very long weight and my health.  I prayed for years, asking God to remove this burden from me.  I did not want my fat to be the cross I had to bear!  I recently realized that He answered my prayer in an unexpected way.  I got a job at Curves in Dundee this last April.  At the time, the company was promoting a new weight management program to it's employees before releasing it to it's members.  I had no choice, or time to prepare.  I was an employee and had to get on the program.

62 pounds later, I am grateful to God for answering my pleas.  I still have 38 pounds to go to reach my ultimate goal, but this program is a lifestyle.  There is nothing to count, measure, or journal.  I do not have to focus on food each day, the way I did on other programs.  I shop at my local grocery store and I don't ever have to eat processed, packaged food.  I have already been keeping off the 62 pounds now for several months.  I maintained my weight through the holidays, not even trying to lose, so that I could enjoy select treats.  I did not gain!  Here are my before and after far!