Hibernation Preparation

Well, I finally did it. The larder is stocked. In fact, it’s so stocked that I currently have a bunch of dry goods sitting on the counter at the moment. I have no idea where I’m going to put it all – I’m going to have husband help me reorganize the upper shelves of the cabinets so I can fit in these additional things later this afternoon.

We popped over to the Evanston farmers market yesterday to see Stovers for our annual supply of honey. To add to the five pound (half gallon) jug I bought earlier in the summer, I bought three more. So we’ve got twenty pounds of honey, which should be enough to last us about to when next year’s comes in sometime in the early summer.  I thought about getting some jams and jellies as well, but decided I could make my own quick versions with the fruit I’ve got in the freezer already if I’m so inclined. I did pick up a single jar of pumpkin butter though, for a little treat to stick in the fridge – so tasty on freshly baked bread when the weather gets cool. I also wanted to get a garlic braid from Henrys, but they’re not quite ready yet. Looks like I’ll have to pick that up after the baby is born. But I did get a pair of tiny, amazingly sweet yellow-fleshed watermelons there. I plan on eating one today. 🙂

This morning, we went to our own market and picked up another dozen ears of sweet corn for the freezer. The blueberries are done, so no more of those this season, though we have a respectable supply for pies and whatnot in the freezer already. For fresh eating, we picked up a pint of cherry tomatoes and a trio of hot peppers from Midnight Sun, and a pint box of McIntosh apples from Earth First. Husband tried to talk to me out of the apples since we’re getting a few bushels in October, but I couldn’t help it. I’ve been craving apple pie, and yesterday I scored an awesome Nordic Ware pie mold at Target for only $5.00 –

I couldn’t resist. Apple hand pies are definitely on the agenda for this weekend. We didn’t really need much more this week for fresh eating, since we still have a good supply of potatoes and onions from last week, so that’s all we came home from the market with.

Yesterday when we stopped at Target, I got more than the pie mold. I received a gift card from my coworkers as a baby present, so we wanted to finish our bulk shopping extravaganza. We got shampoo, paper towels and aluminum foil to round out the household goods we needed. I also found a good deal on ten pound bags of flour and sugar, Zatarains Spanish Rice, tomato paste, iced tea bags and pasta. So we really loaded up on those. Today at our regular grocery store, we laid in a serious supply of chicken stock, beef stock, soy milk , egg noodles, white rice, dried kidney beans and dried pinto beans. And since our cow and pig purchasing fell through for this year (we waited until the last minute for this year by virtue of necessity and then couldn’t find anyone to split with) we stocked up on some meat as well – ground beef, ground pork, chicken thighs, chicken legs and bacon. I also wanted a couple pork shoulders and beef roasts, but they didn’t have any at all. Weird.

Paired with last week’s shopping excursion, we’re all set. Literally all done. We have everything we need in this house to get us through at least the end of the year with household goods and toiletries, and about six to eight weeks of food, at least in dry goods and meat. We’ll have to buy the usual perishables like margarine, egg replacer and fresh produce, but it’s so liberating so know we don’t have to worry about doing big, regular grocery shopping.

So now I can relax for the entire rest of this weekend. The only “projects” I have planned are a double batch of Super Pumpkin-Pumpkin Bread,  Crumb Coffee Cake and 15 Bean Soup for the freezer, to round out the freezer meal project. But that will literally take me all of 45 minutes to put together, and I’ll like a little kitchen time tomorrow afternoon. It’s cool and breezy and feeling very fall-like this weekend so I figure that’s a good thing to do on work-free Monday afternoon. And a nap or two – that’s a very good thing to do to.

Winter Hibernation

I have been woefully absent from blogland recently. We had an actual blizzard this past week in Chicago, which was an experience. Husband and I both made it home on Tuesday afternoon before the worst of it hit and hunkered down through Thursday morning. We were cozy and warm indoors while the storm raged on outside. Wednesday afternoon the snow finally let up and the sun actually shone, so we took a walk out to the lake. There were drifts of snow five feet high in places, and the wind whipping along the shore was brutal. Here are some of the views from around the neighborhood –

I haven’t seen so much snow since I was a kid. It was actually kind of fun and nice, being so novel. And I don’t think the snow is going to melt for quite awhile, which is fine because most of the roads and sidewalks are clear. The city even had a ginormous front loader on our street until late last night, clearing snow into a semi trailer to be carted off somewhere. The whole experience was pretty surreal.

Interestingly enough, the obscene amount of snow didn’t make me go more stir-crazy – my cabin fever has actually abated a little bit. I’ve been pretty reclusive lately, curled up with books and a warm blanket on the couch. I haven’t really been motivated to do much of anything – no sewing (yeah, whoops), no crafting, no planting. I’m kind of in awe lately – my husband and I happily discovered a little while ago that we’re expecting our first baby! In general, I feel much more still than I thought I was capable of, so I’m going with that. Our sweet little babe is due to join us out here in the world in September and we’re very excited to welcome the newest generation of Apartment Farmer. Though we’re kind of kicking ourselves for not getting a two bedroom apartment when we moved last fall… no matter; we have enough space to make things work for the first year. So there will be lots to do to prepare for the beba’s arrival, and I’m sure I’ll be sharing a bit of that here with you all.

But I don’t intend to sit around all weekend just being pregnant. Wednesday during our snow day husband begged me to bake bread, so I did a couple of basic loaves which he’s consumed nearly single-handedly. He says I’ve figured out how to make good bread (at last!). I give a lot of credit to the River Cottage Bread Handbook as well as using bread flour instead of all-purpose. And the bread knife he got me for Christmas is seriously one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten – it just slices through the loaf like butter! Since he’s eaten the other two loaves, I’ve got to bake some more. And I’ve been thinking about focaccia too, so I might do up a pan of that, maybe with a little fresh rosemary and cracked olives.

Food in general is a bit of a tricky subject for me lately, what with the “morning” sickness (which actually means – whatever time of day, random sickness) and my growing list of food aversions, which currently includes eggs, chicken, tomato juice (after a brief, intense love affair with it), and bacon. Breakfasts have been tricky too. I had a few weeks where all I wanted was lady apples and apple juice. Then it was oatmeal, and shamefully – chocolate chip cookies (yeah, I know – not optimal nutritionally, but it was the only thing I could choke down for a few days there). Baked goods and pasta as well as most beef dishes seem to be my friend. So for breakfast, I need to expand my repertoire – I’ve been thinking of looking up a recipe for chewy molasses breakfast cookies. And pumpkin sounds good to me again, so I might do up a batch of Super Pumpkin Pumpkin Bread as mini muffins this weekend too.

And then, there’s Valentine’s Day! I need to get in high gear crafting for that – the house is looking a bit bare in the holiday decor department. I only have a Valentine’s Day Snoopy window sticky in the living room and a red-glittered “love” wood block on the bar. I’ve got three fairly simple things I’d like to put together this weekend to spruce up the apartment – paper “conversation heart” plant stakes, a paper “Be Mine” garland, and a glittered heart wall hanging – I’m going to cut three hearts out of stiff cardboard in varying sizes (small, medium, large) and mount them vertically on a length of pretty ribbon. So stay tuned for photos and basic notes on how I’ll put those together. And then there are the all-important cards. For my nieces, I’m going to make the I Love ‘Ewe’ Valentines I saw on Craft Gossip (one of my all-time favorite craft sites). They’re just too cute to pass up! I’m going to make mine on colored cardstock and maybe do stamped lettering. I also picked up a few mini Peanuts Valentine’s Sticker Tablets at Walgreens to send them – two for a dollar! The girls like “stickys” (as they call them). And I still have to come up with an awesome design for this year’s card to husband. We plan on a low-key Valentine’s Day at home this year. We’ll be making a romantic dinner together and staying in.  

Oh, and I’ve got make up my seed starting chart this weekend, and hassle, I mean – remind – husband that he needs to get the glass inserts put into my awesome red windowsill greenhouse so it’s all ready to go. It’ll be time to get the seeds in some dirt before I know it – I also to need to make a list of new planters I’ll need to acquire or convince husband to build so I actually have a place to put all my wonderful little seedlings.

So, happy weekend to me!

Winter Chill

It is cold in Chicago. So cold that I am loathe to leave the house. But with Christmas less than a week away that’s likely a good thing. My apartment looks like a tornado just went through the toy workshop the North Pole – piles of wrapping paper (this year, it’s store-bought – one is printed with peppermint candies of all shapes and sizes and the other is printed with winterberry branches on snow), ribbons and gift tags, half-finished sewing projects and baking ingredients. But I’ve been getting a lot done. I’ve sewn a lot of gifts this year, including two crayon rolls and mini tote bags for art kits for my nieces. I actually remembered to take pictures of everything before wrapping it, so I’ll get those posted soon I promise – and I’ve even got a new camera that I actually know how to use too!

I need to finish a small zippered bag for a “makeup kit” for my eldest niece – she’s four and loves to do her “makeup” with mommy in the morning. I found some cute little lip balms that are shaped liked cupcakes along with some brightly colored hair clips and nailpolish (which her mother strangely agreed would be fine for me to include). And I do have a little hand sewing left to do, in finishing the play fruit for my younger niece’s other gift – I’ve got to finish the strawberries I started last week as well as do up some lemon and orange slices. I should be able to finish them up this week while parked in front of the television (as I inevitably will be for a least a few hours – I need decompression time after the office job!) 

I’ve done a little bit of baking this year, mostly by doing quick breads. Last week’s cookie baking with my in laws got cancelled because of some nasty weather, but I do plan to do some Russian Tea Cakes (which are husband’s favorite) and some snickerdoodles (which are mine) this evening so we have some tasty munchies this week. I’m also going to do another batch of my Super-Pumpkin Pumpkin Bread so we’ve  got something good for breakfasts this week.

Time just seems to fly by me lately – I still can’t quite figure out where this year has gone. There have certainly been some difficult moments in the last year, but I feel good to have my family around and a good home to comfort me. I probably won’t post a whole lot of new stuff between now and New Year’s because this time of the year is so hectic, but I promise to be back full-swing in January – I’ve got two seed catalogs to continue planning with, and lots of post-Christmas winter projects to – sewing “draft dodgers” for the in front of the doors, sewing house slippers, working on scrapbooks and trying some new things in the kitchen – so stay tuned for all of that. And if I don’t get a chance to say it to you all in between now and then – have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!