Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Motherhood and more: Making things by hand provides sense of pride*

I like to make things. I’ve always liked to make things. If it’s something I think I can do myself, well, then at least I’m going to attempt it.

I started young and I’ve tried just about every handwork-type craft there is. I used to sew my own Barbie clothes – mainly evening gowns of course – from leftover material scraps of whatever
my mom happened to be sewing at the time. Cross-stitching came later, toward middle school. And then jewelry making in high school because that’s when all the macramé-hemp jewelry was in style.

Around that same time, I made my mom teach me to knit, though it wasn’t easy because she was a lefty and I’m a righty. We worked more on sewing a few years later, though I still haven’t mastered sewing on a button. Knitting and sewing are probably my all-time favorite crafts, but I’ve also crocheted, gardened and, recently, tried my hand at Papier-mâché piñata-making.

And cooking. Let’s not forget cooking and baking.

My kids haven’t necessarily followed in my footsteps, yet. But I think it will come. They have an appreciation for the fact that I can make things for them. Or maybe they take it for granted that I can.

My son wanted a Minecraft Creeper stuffed animal and instead of asking me to buy it, he asked me to knit him one. So I found a pattern and knit one. And I have to admit it’s a pretty awesome Creeper. Even though I’m not exactly sure what a Creeper is. Or Minecraft, for that matter.

But my point is I like knowing how to do things. I like knowing where my food comes from, I like making my own yogurt, I like knitting my own sweaters and hats and sewing my own dresses. There’s a bit of pride with it, you know?

The problem with knowing how to make things, however, is that lots of times I will look at something in the store and say, “I can make that,” which is a direct quote from my mother. I probably won’t make whatever it is, but the fact remains that I could.

My parents gave my sister and me a pretty self-sufficient childhood. We didn’t buy vegetables in the store that often, especially not store-canned. We grew our own. We canned our own. As such, summer, to me, smells like tomatoes canning on the stove.

My mom sewed and taught me. She made pretty much all of our Halloween costumes, a tradition I’m attempting to carry on with my own kids. She also taught me how to knit and macramé, and that a handmade gift is always, always better than a store-bought one.

Cooking and growing things was a given. We were not packaged-meal people, and to this day canned spaghetti tastes disgusting to me. As does canned soup.

I hope I don’t sound superior, that’s not my goal. I just feel like, for me, making things myself causes a sense of pride that doesn’t come with buying something in the store. Plus, once you find out how easy making certain things actually is, it’s hard to spend the money on a skirt you know you could easily sew yourself.

Making something by hand, whether it is a necklace or mittens or a cake, creates a link to a time when everything wasn’t readily available, when everything wasn’t disposable. And I like that idea. I like working for something. Obviously, everything in my life wasn’t made by hand.

I’m all for clearance T-shirts for the kids and the little heathens love the plastic toys. But I try to input as much homemade as I can into their daily lives to show appreciation for the skill it takes to create something by hand. And to show that effort and taking time to work for something is important.

And I guess it’s working, a bit. The Creeper says so.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on July 23, 2014.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I had my first kiss at the Meade County Fair. Don't tell Chris.

So I just submitted my monthly newspaper column and it was all about how I love to make things by hand.  I expect the hate mail to start about 20 minutes after it publishes.

It's not that I think I'm better because I make my own yogurt.  It's just that I really, really enjoy it.  I enjoy sewing clothes.  I enjoy knitting sweaters.

I'm a bit afraid I came off sounding like I'm awesome and you're not because I bake my own bread.  (Not always!  I swear!)

But really it's not because I think I'm better, it's because I'm 'frugal' and know that I can probably make something for much cheaper than I can buy it in the store.

Oh well.

At the moment I am actively avoiding my children.  Or child.  Sebastian is fine - he's building his new Lego Chima set and is actually a joy to play with.  The younger child, however, is not taking naps anymore - and hasn't been - and is short-tempered and violent and hoo-boy do I ever want to ship her off to someone else's house.  Or daycare.  I really, really miss daycare.

The hardest thing about being home for the past few weeks has been that I don't have any time to myself anymore.  It's back to constant companions and complete exhaustion when said companions are finally in bed.  That's not good for my introverted soul.

I know, I know.  Stop complaining you ungrateful woman.  I fully admit that I am never satisfied.  I missed them when I was at work and I missed being at work when I am at home.  And that my friends, is the circle of the life of a mom.  I'm about halfway done with my time before I have to go back to work.  Chris is taking a few days off next week and we're going to get the kids out of the house.  We'll probably go to the Meade County Fair - which, of course, is the biggest and best fair around.  The kids will love it.

I guess I should get back to parenting and stop actively avoiding my children.  Adele throws the blocks at my head if I don't play with her when she wants me to.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Homemade Friday on a Monday: Spaghetti and Meatballs for the Birthday Boy

So I survived the weekend.  The weekend of turning 33 and frantic cleaning and last-minute preparation for my son's 6th birthday Pokemon party, and Germany in the World Cup Final and Germany winning the World Cup Final and making biscuits and gravy for my son's birthday breakfast yesterday and homemade spaghetti and meatballs for his birthday dinner.  (He had a hot dog and grapes for lunch.  There's really only so much cooking I can do in one day.)


And I even survived my daughter being up from 2-4:30 last night (this morning?).

After party clean-up the house is still relatively clean, so that's refreshing.  I do have tons of laundry to put up that I shoved in a closet before people got here, but other than that I'm in pretty good shape.

I thought I'd share my spaghetti and meatball recipe with you today.  I know it's not Friday, and therefore not time for a Homemade Friday post, but I figured you'd forgive me.


This is not a quick meal, obviously.  The sauce (or 'Sunday Gravy' if you will) needs to cook at least 45 minutes.  As my dad says, you can eat it after 45 minutes, but it's done after 2 hours.

The meatballs take time, too.  The mixture has to be combined, then formed into meatballs.  Those have to be browned in a skillet, then finished in the sauce.

It's an immensely satisfying meal, even if you have to work it during the first half of the World Cup Final, running back and forth from the kitchen to the living room every time you hear your husband yell out.

My spaghetti and meatballs isn't nearly as good as my parents', but really, that's how it goes, right?  The sauce never tastes exactly right, the meatballs aren't as tender, but everyone was satisfied.  And next week for the July birthday celebration at my parents' house we get to have it again - the right way.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti Sauce

olive oil
garlic
onions if you like - but I'm usually too lazy to cut them up
3 quarts of tomato juice (or two large, 46 oz cans)
24 oz tomato paste
italian seasoning
sugar
salt

In a large pot or dutch oven heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add onions if using and saute until soft.  Add a tablespoon or more of garlic and saute until lightly brown - not dark.  If it gets dark it becomes bitter.

Add tomato juice and paste.  I never measure my italian seasoning, which is probably why my sauce never tastes exactly right.  I add a palm full.  And then usually more later.  Add a tablespoon or two of sugar, just to bring out the sauce a bit, then a tablespoon or more of salt.  I usually season it a bit, then let it cook and taste it for seasoning later on in the process.

Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 2 hours with a lid cracked on top.

Meatballs

3 lbs ground beef - lean - 94/6
1 lb italian sausage
oregano, basil, parsley - or italian seasoning
1 diced onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
5 slices of bread, or bread crumbs
grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
olive oil to brown

Mix meat, onions, garlic and seasoning (a palm full - or more) together.  If using bread, soak in warm water to soften, then add to mixture.  If using breadcrumbs, mix with meat mixture.

Add egg and parmesan.  Mix all together with your hands and form into meatballs - large meatballs, about the size of a small baseball.  Or between a golf ball and baseball.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Brown meatballs on all sides, a few at a time, turning often so they don't burn.

It's best to brown them all and transfer to a platter.  When all are browned, put them in a pot of spaghetti sauce, already hot, and cook in sauce for 45 minutes.

You can freeze them either before or after cooking in sauce.  I froze half of the meatballs after browning them - mainly because they all wouldn't fit in my pot.  This recipe made about 35 meatballs.

Once sauce is about 30 minutes from being done, start a large pot of water heating on the stove.  Once it boils, add salt - a couple of palm fulls, depending on how much water.  Add the pasta.  I usually let it cook for a few minutes, then taste and add salt as needed.  Cook until it still has a little bite to it.  Don't let it get mushy!  Strain pasta and add back to pot.  To keep the noodles from sticking together, it helps to add a bit of sauce to them and stir them around.


Serve a heaping plate full with at least two meatballs and a mountain of parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

Here's my mom's original, handwritten meatball recipe.  The woman has amazing handwriting for a lefty!  Probably because she was taught by nuns:






Thursday, July 10, 2014

No one believes me but I actually really enjoy the beet juice

I've started juicing, which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I turned 33* today and everything to do with the fact that I saw a recipe one day and thought, eh, why not.

That's how I tend to start a new diet plan, or eating plan or whatever you want to call it.  Diet is totes a four-letter word that I normally don't use.  And I'm not on a diet, per se.  I am trying to see exactly how healthily I can eat.  Some days it's awesome and I feel great.  Other days I'm starving all day, no matter what healthy foods I eat and won't be satisfied until I've eaten about 10 of the kids' peanut butter cookies.  On those days I have to remind myself that even though the box says 'all natural' it doesn't mean 'good for you.'

Most of the time when those days happen I know that it's hormone related and therefore out of my control and I give myself a break.  But I do try to eat mindfully and I've started running more.  I run every other day now, even with a jacked up knee and shin splints.  (Am OLD.)  I'm up to 3.1 miles all at the same time so I feel pretty good about it.  I add time on every few weeks, when I feel comfortable with where I am, in the hopes of possibly, one day, maybe, probably not but I'm still sort of planning for it - running a half-marathon.
Honestly I don't really want to PLAN plan for it because I think it's a little overwhelming.  So for now I'm happy doing what I'm doing.  Running.  Drinking juice.  Making smoothies.  Drinking far too much coffee.  Occasionally stealing peanut butter cookies.

And as today is my birthday my husband is taking me out to eat so I will probably eat entirely too many 'unhealthy' things.  And I will most definitely open that bottle of wine that he bought me.  He took the kids out swimming last night and when they got home Sebastian told me they went to my most favorite store to buy my birthday present.  I asked what exactly my favorite store was and the response, that I had to discern through all of the giggles, was 'the beer store!'

My family knows me well.

My mother-in-law took the kids swimming this afternoon and my own mother is picking the kids up this evening so they can stay the night with her because I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with what all needs to be done for Sebastian's birthday party on Saturday.  It's a Pokemon theme, which I know nothing about.  So probably everything will be round with the one design of a pokeball I found online that looked easy enough.  I've already started the pinata.

So I'm going to spend the afternoon trying to clean the house a bit and possibly trying to get a nap in because these last two weeks being a stay-at-home mom again has pretty much destroyed my energy.  And ruined my ability to ever pee in peace.  And made me really, really appreciate my job.

It's been a bit HARD is what I'm saying.  In fact - here is a photo to show you how I left the house this morning to drop Sebastian off at his science camp.  It is a perfect illustration of how my time at home is going:



*I actually had to add up how old I am because I can't seem to keep it in my head.  Probably because I'm old and forgetful.