Memory Muffins

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Back when I was a little girl, somebody gave my mom a recipie for Weight Watchers Apple Sauce Muffins.  They were horrible things: gummy, with a dreadful soda aftertaste.  However, my mom loved the idea of an apple sauce muffin and made it her mission to create one that was as amazing.  Being an excellent baker, she was highly successful and created a recipie that quickly became a family favorite.  

My mother’s version of the muffin is far from Weight Watcher approved, but we don’t mind.  These breakfast miracles are wonderfully sweet and spicy with a crunchy outside and an interior of moist deliciousness.  While I make mine a bit different than even mom did, both versions are amazing and I’ll let you in on a few secrets and options.  

Apple Sauce Muffins

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 cup apple sauce

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (mom’s recipie only calls for 1 tsp)

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (mom used allspice)

1/4 tsp cloves

1/2 cup chopped almonds (mom used walnuts)


No mater which version you are using, start by preheating your oven.  I use a large, double size, muffin tin and heat my oven up to 335 degrees.  Mom used a standard sized tin and heated the oven to 350.

 Cream together butter, sugar, and egg.  Add apple sauce.  It doesn’t look really tasty at this point, but believe me, it gets better.  

 In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Mix well.

Incorporate the dry ingrediens into the wet then fold in the nuts.

Scoop into unlined muffin tin that has been prepped with non-stick cooking spray.  The recipie makes 12 standard sized muffins or 6 large muffins. Bake the smaller muffins at 350 for 20 minutes or the larger muffins at 335 for 30 minutes.

 Once muffins are baked through  and pass the toothpick test, remove from oven.  Transfer to cooling rack immediately and let stand for atleast 5 minutes.  Eat as is.  No butter or jam required.  

My mom says these store well, but I really don’t know.  I can remember eating them at room temperature as a kid, but at my house they never survive past breakfast time.  

Snow Day Tunic

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Nothing beats the comfort of a nice cozy sweatshirt, but that’s just not my style.  In my life, sweatshirts (hoodies) are for hiking or working outdoors.  For everyday, I want something cozy with a bit more cute factor.  

My fabric was two yards of a 60 wide poly/cotton blend double knit.  I knew from the moment I saw it on the bolt that I had to turn it into a winter tunic.  It sat in my stash for a few months while I found time to make garments for everyone else, but this past week I finally decided that with Halloween and Christmas finally out of the way I was sewing for me.  So I started drafting.

For a hint of causal sweatshirt appeal, I had planned to leave all my hems unfinished so they would roll.  However, once I started working I discovered that the fabric wasn’t going to hold up to that as I expected.  So I stitched the collar over, leaving a hint of roughness where the asymmetrical split falls open.  I did proper finishing on the cuffs and hem.  Looking at the collar now, I wish I had just gone and made a self binding. The seams were all serged, so it came together very quickly.  

The back has an arched yoke and a cute pleat detail, but I since I had to photograph myself again I was unable to get a good image of the back.   

I wore it to run some errands yesterday and since it was a bit chilly, I tossed my favorite cardi over top.  I was really happy with how the two layered.  My next project for me is going to be a black and grey skirt that I think will round out this look really well.  I’ve been wearing jeans for more than usual lately and it’s time to get back to skirts and dresses.  

Out of Season Stitching

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Right in the middle of Christmas sewing, I decided to take a break and finish up this dress from my UFO pile. Honestly, I don’t know how it got into my UFO pile in the first place. It’s cute as a button, cut from a simple pattern, and uses two great vintage fabrics. Most likely, it’s companion dress was to blame…notice only one is finished.

This dress is made from McCall’s M6015, which believe it or not, I purchased new and it is made pretty close to pattern specs.  The lined bodice in place of facings and the giant pockets are my only alterations.  Saddly, since I cut it out so long ago (**cough, cough**this past May), I have no idea what size I used and somewhere over the summer and fall most of the pattern pieces disappeared, hopefuly just to the wrong envelope.  

Since it is now winter and we have six inches of snow on the ground, this dress is being worn jumper style.  However, Dark Moon is not bothered by this in the least.  In fact when I first pulled it out of the UFO pile and tried it on her, she was quite insulted that I took it back.  Here she is wearing it almost immediately after I finished it, so that the hem hasn’t even been pressed.  

When I first decided to just go ahead and finish this dress, we were all in the middle of that nasty cold I told you all about.  It was the middle of a excruciatingly long day and I just needed something to take my mind of the misery.  That’s when I found this dress and I really thought I was looking at an afternoon’s worth of work.  Just quickly inserting the zipper, then tacking down the lining and the hem would have finished up the job.  However, inserting a zipper in a Benadryl haze is not quite as easy as it sounds… I picked the zipper out twice before I finally got a result I was happy with.  Hubby thought it was hysterical, but I was less than amused.  By that point I was over it, so I didn’t get around to the tacking for a few more days.  

It took her awhile to notice the bucket sized pockets, but once she did it was true love.  The first wear alone, they held everything from blocks, to her constant companion “Fox,” to a handful of pickles.  My husband went so far as to suggest that she could carry her baby brother in one.  

I use to make these dresses three at a time for my older daughters, but right now I am thinking one is enough.  It’s fun and adorable, but I really think I’m ready for a new go-to dress for little girls. 

Christmas Make #1

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Once, a long time ago, I found the perfect table cloth.  It was in my favorite little chairity shop (the kind you have to dig around in) and knowing me, I only spent a $2-3 on it.  I bought it so long ago, I really have no idea what I spent on it anymore!  

In one capacity or another, I used this table cloth for years.  It  looked great anywhere I put it and it was always ready to make me smile.  In fact, I even painted the kitchen on my homestead specifically to match this table cloth.  

As time went by, life happened.  The table cloth was smudged with a bit of white paint, graced with a few small coffee stains, and then developed a hole.  It was all getting to be too much, but still I couldn’t part with it.  So, I folded it up and added it to my fabric stash, just sure that someday I would use it to construct something wonderful.  

And that is exactly what I did!

The first of my Christmas sewing is now complete and I couldn’t be happier with this upcycle.  Now, my cheery table cloth will still be a part of my kitchen, but in the form of little aprons.  

When I started this project I had a little diagram depicting the size and shape of each piece I needed to cut out.  But as soon as I started working with the fabric, things got changed up a bit.  I wanted to really use the pattern in the absolute best way possible, so I added an inch here, took off an inch there, etc.  I had also intended to make them identicle, but durring the cutting stage decided to change the pattern placement on the bib.  Later, almost on a whim, I also changed the construction of the skirts.  

 I’m sure the girls are going to love these, but for now they are hidden away (back in my fabric stash) until Christmas.  

Stocking Up

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    Our household has been fighting yucky colds for the past few weeks, but it’s back to business as usual now.  Since I used up all my stock making (our cough syrup dazed) Thanksgiving dinner, I started a fresh batch just before bed last night.  A good stock or broth is essential to quick yummy meals and can even be heated and sipped for a light breakfast.  (On cold winter mornings, I like a mug of steaming stock with a soft boiled egg.). At the supermarket, a quart of this essential liquid goes for$2.50 on sale.  Making your own is much more economical, especially if you use my hack.

    Some of you may have this figured out by now, but I really try to be frugal.  Throwing out vegetable “scrap” really seems like a waste to me, especially since there really isn’t anything wrong with all the odds and ends left after putting a meal together.   So, somewhere along the line, I came up with the idea of tossing all those random pieces into a plastic freezer container and turning the contents into stock when it was full.  Vola!  Essentially free stock!  

    It’s so simple, every cook ought to be doing it!  Onion ends, pepper seeds and centers, wilting herbs, celery ends, potato peels, garlic papers, etc, etc all end up in the container then simmer together to create a delicious stock.  The only sand traps to avoid are cabbage (brussle sprouts) and cabbage, they do a hostile take over in the pot and no other flavors come through.  I even toss lemon and lime peels in.  (Also, if I debone any meat durring meal prep, I toss those scraps in with the veg for a little extra flavor)

    Here’s how I do it:  1 gallon of frozen vegetable scrap is dumped in a 2 gallon stockpot and covered with water and a splash of apple cider vinegar.  Toss a lid on the pot and bring it up to a boil before turning the heat to low/simmer and walking away.  (I usually go to bed.) Let it all simmer for 12-24 hours, replenishing water as needed.  At this point you can cool, strain and jar your stock, but I’m always short on fridge space so I remove the lid and reduce it down a bit first.  I like to simmer mine down to about 2 quarts.

     My rule of thumb is to use all stock within 2 weeks, but honestly it rarely lasts that long.  I use it as a base for sauces, gravies, and soups.  It also makes delicious rice.  Just dont forget to add salt.  

    Pretty Close to Perfection

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    Say “hello” to my new favorite top! 

    I sure feels good when a make comes out exactly how you planned, especially when it is made from a pattern that you feel kicked your butt not that long ago.  This “Pretty Perfect” tunic was made using the same pattern as my not so great charcoal tunic earlier this fall.  Just after a few changes, of course.   

    After taking an inch off each side, moving the darts, narrowing shoulders, lenthing the sleeves, and adding side gussets it was the perfect size and style.  I suppose I should have just used a smaller size, but I am infamously cheap and when the smallest size in the envelope (one size smaller than my measurements) is still mammothly huge I just make do.  I am going to get every penny I can out of this thrift store pattern.  

    Talking about pennies…this entire sew was rediculously cheap, even though it doesn’t look it.  It was made from 2.5 yards of 6o wide crepe (I originally thought it was poly crepe, but from the way it behaves when wet I have decided it must be a poly-rayon blend) that has a lovely drape and weight.  It was a $3.00 thrift store find.  The “artsy lady” interior is a poly lining fabric that I bought an entire blot of of $1.00 a yard several years ago.  All together, with out subtracting the left over crepe, I have less than $5 in this tunic.

    Use a darning needle to pull your serger “tails” back through the stitches for a nice finish.

    Even though I lined this top, I used my serger a lot on this project.  I stitched then serged, but next time of this top I will serge all my pieces before stitching to avoid crowding in the gusset area.  

    I also used my serger to make a rolled hem for this garment.  Since I was unsure how to deal with my hanging “tails” on the hem, I used hand stitches to tack them down.  It appears to have worked nicely, but I won’t really know until I launder the top.  

    When afixing the lining at the armhole I did cheat a bit (having three small children, I allow myself to do that once-in-a-while).  I just zig-zagged the two serged edges together.  Not quite professional, but it is still quite neat and tidy so, I accept it for what it is.  

    Wow!  My only pair of LuLaRue leggings are getting a bit big.  It’s sad because I love the houndstooth, but exciting because it means I’m trimming back down.

    Really, I promise I’m just about done bragging for the time being.  First, I have to say one more time that I love, love, love this top and then I need to mention the wool scarf.  It’s another me-make.  I knit it for my husband the first winter we were dating and it is wonderfully warm and cozy.  I am wearing it here because I was just about to head to the grocery store when hubby shot these photos (I wanted him to shot outside, but he said it was too cold to stand around in the yard) and it makes a great accessory.   

    Coniferous Crackers

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    A few days ago, we ran out of crackers.  

    It was a cool rainy day building up to snow and we were out of crackers for the third time in a week.  The girls were in a particularly nasty rainy day mood and I desperately needed something to keep them occupied.  So, we made crackers.

    The idea of making my own crackers has been floating around in my head for a few years now.  Ever since the day my step-mom and I brought this cookbook home from the thrift store.  I love collaborated cookbooks and this is one of the best I’ve ever owned.  If I’m going to use a cookbook, this is almost always the one I turn to.

    Well, in this cookbook is a recipe that caught my eye the very first time I thumbed through it-REBECCA BOONE’S HOMEMADE CRACKERS.  Such a grand sounding recipe, in a very rustic backwoodsy sort of way.  I can just imagine Rebecca Boone standing over a rough plank table wearing a calico dress and apron, sleeves pushed up to the elbows, rolling out crackers.  What an industrious woman!  

    So, I made crackers with the girls.  The reality was diaristicly different from my day dream.  

    The ingredients were all simple and items I keep on hand.  The process it self was easy as well.  What was not straightforward was Dark Moon.  She was swinging wildly from sweet and helpful to ornery and destructive.  It was too late for a nap and too early for bed, so I just had to bite the bullet and go with it.  

    I measured out the ingredients and let the girls combine them in a bowl.  Then I worked the dough by hand.  It was a bit stiffer than I expected.  Since this is was my experience with crackers, I just decided to go with it.  I took a little taste and it was pretty tasty, so I proceeded to roll it into a sheet on the table.  

    Here is where I decided (between fighting with Dark Moon over rather she should be allowed to eat copious amounts of raw dough) that I had made a mistake.  I absolutely could not roll the dough thin enough to make a proper cracker.  Once again, I just keep on truckin’ and did what I could before taking a cookie cutter to the dough sheet.

    Miss Busy did a great job poking holes in our pine tree shaped crackers.  The recipe said to bake them on a greased cookie sheet, but I was all out of cooking spray (add that to my shopping list with “crackers”) and used parchment instead.  It worked just fine.

    By this point I was feeling stressed, so I spun some Elton John for the good vibes.  The girls and I danced in the living room while our crackers baked.

    They turned out quite pretty little crackers, but not quite as cracker-ish as I would have liked.  Warm they were like small chewy biscuits with crunchy edges (not complaints here), but cold they were like munching on stones.  Overall, they ended up reminding me of the hardtack experiment I did a few years ago. 

    I really want this recipe to work, so I will probably give it another go (with out my assistants) and pay careful attention to my wet/dry ratio.  With all the cooks involved, the somewhat disappointing results probably had more to do with us than the recipe.