Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

      Until recently, I never considered buying a frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I hadn't even known such a thing existed.  I first read about Smucker's popular frozen peanut butter sandwich -- the Uncrustable -- in a New York Times Magazine article by (or course) Michael Pollan.  He wrote, "People think nothing of buying frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their children's lunch boxes."  I thought: They don't?  What people?  What frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?  What's next, frozen buttered toast?
      I felt briefly smug in the certainty that I was not so lazy or compromised that I would ever buy mass-produced peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Then I thought, People probably once said that about peanut butter.  And bread.  And jelly.  They almost certainly said it about waffles, and pie crust, and pudding.  Not so long ago, people must have wondered who couldn't fry her own donuts, grind her own sausage, cure her own bacon.  Kill her own bacon!  The more I thought about it, the more arbitrary it seemed to draw a line in the sand at frozen PB&J.

(Jennifer Reese, from the introduction of  Make the Bread, Buy the Butter)

 Last week I bought this book as birthday gift for a friend, but since her birthday isn't until December 1st, I've already nearly finished reading it, cover to cover (sorry Caroline, I've done my best to keep it clean!)  After I put the turkey in the oven on Thursday, instead of taking the time to change out of my pajamas, I sat myself down at the kitchen table (pajamas and all) and read to my little heart's content (I also amused my mother by reading the funniest parts out loud so she could enjoy it, too...)

I was fascinated by the idea of this book when I spotted it: The author makes her way through an extensive list of food items one might usually buy pre-packaged and then breaks things down by discussing whether it tastes better (or not) to make it from scratch, listing objectionable ingredients which might be added to non-homemade items, the cost-effectiveness of making each item by scratch, and also how time/labor intensive each "project" might be.  For me, the most delightful parts of the book were the author's accounts of keeping chickens for eggs and goats for milk.  I won't spoil the fun by recounting here the authors conclusions regarding animal-keeping -- you'll just have to track down this book and read for yourself!

As for following the advice contained in this book?  Despite the authors recommendations, I don't think I'll be making my own bagels, croissants or tortillas, curing my own pastrami, or setting myself up to make Mascarpone & Camembert cheeses any time soon. I still have a pasta-maker, in it's original box, which we received as a wedding gift over 11 years ago, for goodness sakes!  But I love this book... If you read it, let me know if you like it, too!

And just for fun, if you leave a comment, won't you tell me what crazy & ambitious things you like to make from scratch?  What do you feel guilty about buying pre-made (but buy anyhow!) Me?  I like to bake the daintiest of cookies and sandwich them together with jam.  Pre-made guilt? Broth.

P.S.  FYI, in case you're interested, the author of this book (Jennifer Reese) has a blog: The Tipsy Baker.


The Family of Man

As a young child, there was a always a copy of this book lying around the house.  I think it was given as a wedding gift to my parents, and, from the time I was old enough to sit and turn the pages, it was one of my favorite books.

The photos were first displayed as a group in 1955 as an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  The exhibit included photos by Robert Doisneau, Ruth Orkin, Lewis Carroll, Edward Steichen, Irving Penn, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston and many others.

Carl Sandberg wrote in his prologue of the book, "The first cry of a newborn baby in Chicago or Zamboango, in Amsterdam or Rangoon, has the same pitch and key, each saying, "I am!  I have come through! I belong! I am a member of the Family."

All aspects of the human life-cycle and the human condition are depicted:  from youth to old age, birth to death, from joy to sorrow, from love to anger, strife to peace, isolation to inter-connectedness, and everything in between...  I feel as though looking at this book as a young child shaped me and opened me. I have the copy from my childhood home tucked into my own bookshelf now... it's pages are very fragile and so I recently purchased a new copy for my children to enjoy.

 I hope my children love this book as much as I did...

Note: If you are inspired to share this book with your children, too, I recommend previewing it first.  While I don't think any of the images are inappropriate to share with a child, each family has it's own feelings about what is and is not appropriate.  Also, the photos are powerful and some of them raw.  My 8 year old son found a few of the images disturbing, which led us to some good discussions about the images and his reactions.  You know your children and will use your own discretion, I'm sure!



 No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.
(John Greenleaf Whittier)


Last-Minute Thanksgiving Crafts

Browsing around on-line at ideas for Thanksgiving crafts, I was inspired to throw together a few last-minute  holiday decorations with my little Mr...

With all the November turkey-themed-madness here in the U.S.,  I believe this may be the first time I've ever created a pine-cone turkey... Well, perhaps back in kindergarten, but I really cannot remember!  Lacking the usual pom-poms and googly-eyes in my stash, I improvised heads for these turkeys from pecans. I was in charge of wielding the hot-glue gun to attach the pecan-heads, little Mr. was in charge of tail-feather design and my wee Bloom was in charge of grabbing feathers off the table, running away with them and squealing with laughter as feathers fluttered around the house!

We also quickly assembled this paper leaf garland to hang in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room...  easy-peasy.  My parents arrived from Los Angeles last night and so things are feeling joyful and festive around here.



Taking Care of Mother Earth by Stopping Junkmail

Did you know that by going to catalogchoice.org you can stop junk mail and catalogs?  So far they've had 20 million people sign up for junk mail suppressions which has saved more than 105 million gallons of water, prevented 714 million pounds of solid waste, avoided 219 million pounds of greenhouse gas and saved more than 700, 000 trees.  Especially at this time of year, when unwanted holiday catalogs start rolling in, I am reminded of how big a problem this is and how important it is to do my part.

Catalog Choice is a free, non-profit service to stop junk mail and save natural resources.  I'm so glad they're doing this... aren't you?


Apple Crumble

Last week, our friends from Sebastopol showed up on our doorstep and they brought with them about 20 pounds of apples.  What's a girl to do with 20 pounds of apples?  Give some away, of course, and then it's time to cook up an apple crumble.

The recipe I use is a basic one:
Preheat oven to 375 F.  Peel, core and cut into 1-inch chunks 3-6 pounds of apples.  Place the cut apples into a 9 x 12 or 10 x 15 inch glass baking dish.

For the topping, mix gently in a large bowl: 1 cup of oatmeal, 1 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 a cup all-purpose unbleached flour and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.  Cut 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter into the bowl with the sugar, oatmeal & flour mixture.  Keep mixing and cutting the butter into the other other ingredients until the mixture is dry and crumbly.  Evenly distribute the topping mixture over the apples Bake approx. 50-55 minutes, until the topping is lightly browned.

Serve with whip cream, vanilla ice cream or grab a big spoon and eat it right out of the pan for breakfast.  Now if you'll excuse me, please, I've got to go refill my bowl.

 * * *
 (Note: This post was shared at Natural Suburbia's Creative Friday...)



In the Garden, a Patient Kitty

The other afternoon wee Bloom and I were out in the garden.  I looked up and this is what I saw... a very quiet, very patient kitty.  Why is he so quietly, patiently sitting up in that tree?

It seems our cedar tree is the first stop for these tiny darlings, on their way to fill their hungry little bellies...

And, while we're on the topic of wildlife in the garden, I musn't take my eyes off this little creature for long.  Apparently, rocks are quite a delicacy... at least among the "16-months-and-under" set.



Front Page News

(photo -- Paul Schraub)
 It's not every day that there is news worth smiling about, however, the other morning I unfolded our copy of the San Francisco Chronicle and was greeted by this photo!  Photos of whales swimming and splashing about, feeding, caring for their young and generally doing what whales are supposed to be doing always make me glow.

Currently Humpback Whales are on their yearly migration from their summer feeding grounds off the coast of Alaska, on their way down to their winter birthing and mating grounds off the coast of Mexico.  Usually, during their autumn migration, they remain several miles off-shore, however this year they have been feeding close to shore, making quite a spectacle of themselves!  To read the full article, you can have a look here...

Experts say the whales may stick around for a few weeks.  Anyone else planning to head to the beach? I think we'll be off to Half Moon Bay and soon!


Gnomes, Gnomes, Gnomes!

When I first saw these "chore-gnomes" over at Melissa's blog Wild Faerie Caps and in her etsy shop I thought to myself, "brilliant!"  Are you as tired of reminding your little one(s) to do their chores as I am? Is that responsibility chart not quite working? Wouldn't a crew of funny little gnomes be a jolly reminder of what needs to be done?!

Their hats are made from hand dyed 100% wool felt. Watercolor paints brighten their tiny, wood burned designs and each gnome glows from a good rub with homemade beeswax polish. Best of all, they're clearly made with such love...

In my house, taking the recycling from the kitchen down to the garage is Little Mr. B's favorite chore-to-ignore, so this little fellow makes me laugh (I keep imagining a squeaky little gnome-voice persistently offering reminders, "Little Mr., please take down that recycling!")

And then, of course, there's this fellow, who would come in handy for providing some oft-necessary reminders about tooth-brushing (in his very squeaky little gnome-voice, of course!)

Melissa has also created beautiful Weather-Gnomes which you can see in this post at This Cosy Life.

 And now, drum-roll, please... Melissa is offering a glowing Autumn-Gnome as a give-away (don't you love his tiny knit cap?!)  To enter the give-away, do visit Melissa's etsy shop, have a look around then leave a comment below (and be sure I have a way to contact you if you are the winner.)  In your comment, please mention your favorite item(s) from Melissa's shop and also, if you wish, mention which chore in your house is the least (or most) favorite!  I will choose a winner for the give-away in one week via random-number generator.

Good Luck!

This give-away is now closed.  Congratulations #17. With a rustling of leaves, the little autumn gnome will be drifting over to Leisa's house...

P.S.  Please do visit Creative Friday over at Natural Suburbia and The Nature Table at The Magic Onions for more lovely & creative ideas...