Jars, Jars, Jars

Last week we sat on the couch watching T.V. together. I very softly began singing a Green Cove Tajar Day chant, “Thunder, thunderation, we’re the witches, and we create a sensation…” Michael looked at me and said, “Are you singing an0ther camp song?”

So when I suddenly ended up at camp last Thursday evening for a week to help out, I don’t think anyone in my real-world life was too surprised. Things haven’t changed much here, and yet the differences are noticeable. First year counselors were my campers. Stalker Carol, she’s a counselor. What? I’ve taught riding lessons, rode a horse, checked heads for lice, almost cried at campfire, and gone to a co-ed. This place, God what is it about this place that gets in your blood? I love it.

So, I haven’t been cooking or baking. I’ve been eating camp food, which really isn’t that bad. But, no recipes for you. Instead, I’m going to give you a kitchen tip. A life organizing tip, if you will. Jars. The uses are endless really. And not only that, but they are so pretty all lined up on your counter top, filled with iced coffee or a smoothie, or soup for lunch. Mason jars are classic, and you can buy them for fairly cheap at most grocery stores. However, I just reuse food jars from things like spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, and lemon curd. Wash the jar and remove the label and sticky gunk with a hard-bristled brush or a scouring pad. Then start filling!

Make raspberry infused vodka (via Shutterbean)

Mix the vodka with lemonade. Enjoy on hot summer days. Store extra vodka (what extra?!) in a jar.


Mobile breakfast in a jar: smoothies!

Delicious cold-brewed iced coffee that you should drink every morning (via Smitten Kitchen).

Store dried goods like rice, beans, lentils, and quinoa in jars. Be sure to label them! (Chalkboard paint on the lids would be cute.)

Days 21, 22, & 23 – Decoupage and Remembering

I have a basket next to the couch. It’s filled with magazines. Bon Appetit, Readymade, Cook’s Illustrated, Real Simple. I’ve dog-eared the recipes I want to make. Then the clutter on the coffee table gets to be too much, so I move the magazines to the basket and forget about the dog-eared recipes. When the most recent round of magazines came in the mail, I decided to start tearing out recipes and project so that I’d actually make them. This only led to more clutter on my coffee table, and clutter that floats to the floor the second the dog or cat walks by.

So my clutter inspired me. I need a recipe box! Why not take things full circle and decorate the box of magazine recipes with pictures from those magazines?

Decoupage. It’s making a collage on a useful object and sealing it up so you can…use it. For example, a picture frame or journal or…a shoe box for recipes.

This project took me two days. Day 21 & Day 22. Lots of creativity flowed. The whole process is not difficult, but does involve drying of glues.

You’ll need: the object you will decoupage, pictures/colorful paper/tissue paper, glue, modge podge/glue that dries clear, scissors, a paintbrush.

Cut out pictures or paper that will cover your object. I used food-related (and a few Julia-related) pictures. Plan out where you’d like them to go on your object and how they fit together best. Glue them down. Let the glue dry. Cover your collage with a coat of modge podge. Let dry. Repeat with one to two more coats. Done!

Day 23

This is a shiva candle. In the Jewish tradition, when a loved one dies, the family sits shiva for one week beginning the day of the funeral. This is the initial mourning period, a time to remember and reflect. No work is supposed to be done, no cooking, just sitting. And a shiva candle is lit in honor of the loved one. Don’t blow it out. It will go out on its own after seven days. It burns as a memory, the presence of the soul, as an aid to guide the soul to its next resting place.

My oma was Catholic, but we still burned shiva candles for her here. It’s not so much about the religion but what the candle symbolizes. For me, it’s a reminder of my grandmother’s life and just a nice way to say good-bye. Every time I’ve stood at the counter preparing a meal or baking something this week, I’ve looked at the candle and thought about how more times than not, I remember Oma standing in the kitchen , apron on, wooden spoon in hand.

Days 17, 18, 19, & 20 a.k.a. I am behind

Creativity is hard to document!

I have also been a bit of a slacker lately. Probably at least half of my creative endeavors have involved cooking, something I do on a regular basis. The whole idea of this month was to stretch my wings and let some creative juices flow. So I’m pacting to do stretch and flow more the second half of this month.

Day 17 

Mira attended a picnic at 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art with Michael and me. The summer sun and extensive playing and exploring wore the pup out and she stole some drinks…many drinks…from Michael’s plastic cup. Luckily I had my water bottle with us, too.

Day 18

Homemade bread requires some planning to make. It’s certainly not difficult, but between hours of multiple risings and baking, the whole thing must be planned into the day. Due to bad planning on my part, we had no bread in the house on Saturday morning, and all I wanted for breakfast was some runny eggs with bread. So I made biscuits from Smitten Kitchen. They’re quick and fairly easy. My tips are these: the dough is quite sticky. Add maybe 1/2 cup extra flour. Make sure to bake them until they are truly golden. Slightly underbaked biscuits are not as delicious as fully baked ones. Breakfast was consumed too fast for photos.

Day 19

Happy Father’s Day! I have a…weird…awesome…hilarious…inappropriate dad. He dresses up in drag to raise money for Alzheimer’s, he tells me he needs a classy place for his whores to host more high-profile customers (my father is not a pimp), and he misses my mom when she leaves town for multiple weeks. So, on Sunday, my brother, his girlfriend, Michael, and I made dinner for him: Salads and stuffed shells from 101 Cookbooks.

The secret to these stuffed shells? Lemon zest. It’s mixed into the ricotta filling and spread across the bottom of the baking dish. Trust me, it really adds a unique flavor to the whole meal.

The beauty of this pasta is that you can make it in advance. This would be a great dish to make on a Sunday afternoon, freeze, and then make during the week after work. Scroll down to find the recipe after the jump!

I also went up to Zionsville for the annual pet parade and took a few photos for Robert Goodman Jewelers’ Facebook page. My favorite

Day 20

I hung my shelf in the living room! Finally the photos that have been tucked away all hidden on my bookshelf have a real home. And now I have a place to put flowers that is Lolacat-proof! The white roses are from my parents in honor of Oma.

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Day 8 – Homemade Lotion

I have successfully made my own lotion. Screw a pie shop, I’m going to start my own line of body products. But seriously, I feel really good about the scrub and this lotion. Really, really easy. Not time consuming at all. I have lots of ingredients left to make more batches, which will probably save me money. So good for my skin and body. So all-natural!

 

I think homemade body products are a lot like homemade cooking. People who don’t cook a lot think popping frozen vegetables or chicken in the microwave, heating up premade pasta or pizza, or eating out is so much easier than cooking a meal from scratch. And honestly, it sounds so much easier. I don’t blame those people at all. But turns out, with just a bit more effort and a little planning, you can make pretty tasty pasta or chicken or vegetables at home and on your own. You know exactly what’s in your meal that way, you get the satisfaction of having made it, and it’s probably cheaper in the longrun. (Noticed a money-saving trend right now? My pesky bank account isn’t looking so good.) Same thing with body products! I’ve never seen much point in making my own. It’d be hard, I’d have to buy weird ingredients, and it’s so convenient to buy a bottle of lotion at Target. NOT TRUE!

Moral of the paragraph? Give homemade a try! Start with the basics and once you’ve gotten the hang of how to make chicken or lotion or whatever, get creative.

Hello, summertime lotion! And thank you fancy Hipstimatic lens!

So here’s the lotion recipe. I loved watching the water, oil, and beeswax come together in the blender. The stuff starts out all watery and within minutes it’s blended up into a lotion consistency. How?! These are the times I wish I knew more about chemistry. Would this be chemistry? I’m clueless. If you worry about the oiliness of your lotion, I say take a deep breath. I was too, at first. My lotion looked quite oily when I first transfered it to the glass jar. I covered it up and let it reach room temperature overnight. This morning it looked much more…lotion-y? Either way, not bad. It soaks into the skin fairly well. But then I like lotion that I can still feel on my skin a few hours later. Makes me think it’s actually working. So no oily residue, but a smooth and moisturized feel left behind. If you’re worried about this, maybe dial down the olive oil a bit…? Also, I just discovered today that different essential oil scents have different medicinal properties and benefits. So do some research before you pick your scent!

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Day 4 – Sugar Scrub

Happy Day 4 of Creativity Saturday!

Not only was today creative, but it was damn productive, too. I bought supplies for three projects, rode my bike, and went to my first heated yoga class.

Today’s creative endeavor was inspired by someone else’s Day 1 creativity. 30 Days of Creativity asks participants to pin their creations on Pinterest every day. Scrolling through pins of blankets, photos, food, and art, I’ve been really amazed. People are so talented. So, someone posted a sugar scrub (you know, to use in the shower) and I got inspired. If I make my own health and beauty products then I know no icky chemicals go in them! Cool!

This body scrub uses mostly basic ingredients found in every house. You may not have the vitamin E or the essential oil, but honestly for how expensive a nice and chemical-free body scrub is, buying those two items is probably worth it. I found both at a local health food store (Good Earth for those of you who live in Indy). It also is entirely wonderful and works magic on the skin! I made this batch, hopped into the shower, and scrubbed up. My skin is incredibly soft. In fact, if I wasn’t so obsessive about moisturizer, I probably could’ve skipped the post-shower lotion all together!

Some tips before you get started. Sugar – you can use any type. I used a mix of white and brown sugars. Epsom salts – buy a bag because they have lots of uses! Apparently they draw toxins out of the body, relaxes muscles, and reduces swelling. Olive oil – you can use whatever type of oil you want (almond, olive, coconut, etc.) I went with a mix of olive and coconut. Vitamin E – very good for your skin! Essential oil – I went with orange. I think peppermint would be ahmahzing though. And this tip is IMPORTANT! DO NOT USE A GLASS JAR TO STORE YOUR SCRUB, despite what you see in my photo. This glass jar did not make it much longer after it was photographed. Did you know that water, which there’s a lot of in a shower, makes glass slippery? Please just use a plastic container. Mine is now in an old yogurt container.

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Day 3 – Grilled Cheese and Nail Polish

We are on day 3 of 30 Days of Creativity.

What happened to day 2 you ask? Well. Day 2 I created the September/October 2011 issue of Jack and Jill. By that I mean I decided what was going in it and the order it would all go in. To me this part of my job has always been like organizing a paper and its argument. I love doing it. I also used my creative juices to edit the story, articles, and poem for the issue. No picture.

Back to day 3.

I created watermelons on my toes with nail polish in my living room. I also created dinner with homemade bread, cheese, basil, oregano, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. Yes, that’s mayonnaise. Don’t slather the outsides of your grilled cheese bread with butter. Use mayo instead. Yum. I did not keep my feet near my dinner for very long. My feet are incredibly gross. Well, really only the right one. It’s an embarrassment.

OK, now, finally, I have a garden update for you! I know, you’ve been just dying to know.

black cherry tomatoes

zebra tomato

prudins purple tomato

rosemary and basil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been watering. Think I need to get some fertilizer. I can wait to see if I’ll actually get some tomato growth!

Gardening Tips

I have always wanted a garden. Unfortunately, I’ve always also been lazy. This spring, I will not be lazy. I will have that garden. But I need some help. I don’t have the greenest thumb. Here’s my situation.

I would like to plant tomatoes, but I would prefer to plant them in pots since I rent my house and don’t want to dig up the yard. I have a porch. It faces north and is screened in and covered. It doesn’t get much sunlight. I have a small strip of grass on the side of my house facing east. My backyard is a nice size. It faces south. A family of rabbits hangs out there often. Where would my tomatoes be happiest? Does anyone in Indianapolis have suggestions on where to get seeds?

I would also like to grow some herbs. I have a crate, 2 or 3 inches high, that could work as a planter. What do I need to do to make my herbs grow tasty and tall?

I’m definitely going to do some research online, but just thought I’d tap into another resource here. Because my readers are awesome!