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cheap and good

Cheap and Good: Pick Your Own Strawberries

As promised, the DH and I (along with The Boy) went to a local berry farm to augment the strawberry ‘stash’ at Chez Siberia. The DH picked 17 pounds of berries on Friday, most of which ended up being frozen and used as the starter for his strawberry wine (more on that another time). So, with the freezer inventory reading at the ‘danger, danger, Will Robinson’ line for strawberries, we knew we needed to get back to the farm for more.

Lucky for us, they open early, even on Sundays, so we were there in the cool of the morning this morning, along with a bunch of other families, out there in the field picking. (more…)

Cheap and Good: Buying Local in Season – Strawberries!

Strawberries. Until Clarence Birdseye popularized frozen foods, strawberries meant ‘fresh in the spring and early summer or on your toast and waffles as jam and preserves the rest of the year. Now, you can get frozen strawberries anytime, and at Chez Siberia, we do our part to pick and freeze a whole lot. But we also take the opportunity to eat them as soon as we can get them home, rinsed and into a bowl.

Good, fresh, sweet-all-by-themselves strawberries are not only a treat, but nutritionally fantastic (more…)

Walk on the Wild Side at the Farmers’ Market

And…we’re BACK!! And we are circling around again, on the subject of farmers’ markets because – I say so. A reader of the last piece told me that she does not go to ‘her’ farmers market because they only had two vendors and all the vendors had were greens and green onions.

OK…we’ve got two issues here. First is probably the fact that north of some predetermined spot, it’s really too early to find a whole lot more than green onions and greens. It’s just not warm enough yet and the farmers, even with row covers, etc. will not have had enough time to actually grow a whole lot. And second, Aunt Toby realizes that some farmers’ markets are NOT very special – the one closest to you might not be – the one in the next town over might be. (more…)

Friends of Farmers Markets are Friends of Mine

This blogging thing does get out of hand. The first thing you know, you get an idea and then it sprouts other ideas, which breed and make other ideas and pretty soon the whole post gets out of hand and you are looking for a book deal. So, I am going to go with one idea and tell you what the next one is and hold myself to it.

Today’s topic is farmers markets and Aunt Toby is hearing the eye-rolling and groans from here, deep in the computer dungeon at Chez Siberia.(and by the way, the rolling of eyeballs, as any parent of teenagers can tell you, sounds like nails on a chalkboard and is usually accompanied by the word, “Moooooom!!!” which is at the frequency of dog whistles). “Oh, come on, Aunt T – EVERYONE knows about farmers markets. Can’t you come up with something more interesting that THAT?

Well, 30 minutes ago, I would have agreed with you and turned in my blogger’s license right there except for an IM I got from a friend who lives in the more suburban part of a large metro area. We were talking about pasture raised meat (which is another topic for another time) and she was saying, “Oh, I’m sure “large national supposedly organic grocery store chain that is only found in large metro areas” will have that” and I replied, “Mmmm, I’d rather deal nose to nose with the person who actually raised it so that I can ask what they did and how they did it – how the animals were ‘finished’ and so on.” And then she dropped the bomb on my little idea that ‘everyone knows about farmers markets’:

“You know, I’m going to go down to the xxx farmers market right now (which is, like a 15 min. bike ride from her house) – we’ve lived here 25 years and I’ve never been.” (more…)

Cheap and Good: Hankering for Hummus?

Recently, consumers were faced with another product recall, this time for all sorts of products manufactured with peanuts coming out of the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Georgia due to Salmonella contamination. A bit later, a facility this company owned in Texas was also tagged for the same conditions and contamination. As of early February, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta had identified 600 people in the United States and possible connection with eight deaths due to consumers eating this contaminated food.

salmonella testimony

For those of us who have some concerns, what are our options? (more…)

Sewing: Make it worth even more

Aunt Toby has, I suspect, a rather unique philosophy on sewing clothing for family members in terms of ‘making it pay’, which is this:

Learn to do one thing really well. Make that a bunch of times…and then learn to make another thing really well and make THAT a bunch of times.

Example One: Men’s shirts. I make men’s shirts for the DH as an act of love (ok, I admit it), but also because he has a sort of shoebox shaped body and the tails are just not long enough. Men’s shirts, from a sewing and design aspect are like Japanese pen and ink drawings: the buffet of design opportunities is pretty narrow. The items that are usually seen when the man wears it with a suit or sportcoat are the collar, the cuffs and the band (and even then, with a tie an observer doesn’t get to see much, actually) . The only other place to do anything is the yoke in the back and the chest pocket and even then, there is this really thin line between “Oh, that’s nifty” and “Oh, you’re subbing for The Tumbleweed Boys” this evening?” (more…)

Sewing: Worth it…more or less

Given the plethora (today’s ‘big’ word) of opportunities to buy what looks like inexpensive (i.e., cheap and cheaply made, of cheap goods) clothing, Aunt Toby would like to ask the logical question: If I can go to Wal-get-ohl-H&M and buy a dress for $30.00, why bother sewing? Let’s just say that you are one of the lucky people(few though they may be) who actually can go to the rack, pull off a size whatever, put it on, look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Dayam, I look hot!” Well, let’s look at the major reasons people are STILL sewing clothing in A.D. 2009: creative outlet and fit and selection issues.

Creative Outlet. This is the ‘my eyes are bigger than my stomach’ situation – sometimes it is merely that people see clothing that they could not possibly afford to buy and feel their skills are such that they can reproduce the look for less. At other times, it is a case of people falling in love with fabric (whoever dies with the biggest stash wins) and are inspired from the fabric up. Another factor is actually practical: If you are someone who actually looks on a wardrobe as something that can be freshened up with the addition of certain more ‘on trend’ items (and by that I mean items in certain colors or prints or shapes) and you can’t find them in the stores (a situation your Aunty finds herself in many many times) in your size, or in a style that flatters you, sewing is an option. If you are the sort of person who would be wearing high end looks AND also have the skills to pull this off AND you value your time at $0.00, then you can definitely save money. As for stash-a-holics – as someone who not only has built her own ‘fabric edifice’ but inherited a stash from her mother and great aunties, Aunt Toby has to say, “I feel your pain, Sisters.” (more…)

Cheap and Fast: Q-D Hot and Sour Soup

ingredientsAs much as I love traditional chicken soup (aka “Jewish Penicillin”), once I discovered Chinese Hot and Sour Soup when I was in college, I realized what a superior therapy (at least from an upper respiratory standpoint) Hot and Sour Soup is. No matter how clogged up my sinuses get, they can’t withstand the combination of hot liquid, pepper and vinegar that makes up the essence of Hot and Sour Soup.

My only problem is that one of the things that I think really tops off the flavor is something that I never seem to have in the house, except at certain times of the year and that is green topped onions. But today, when I was cleaning up our onion storage down in the basement, I discovered that, as you see in the photograph, a couple of the onions had sprouted. (more…)

Cheap and Good: Stale bread 4 ways plus a trifling dessert

I know, I know..I promised something on stale bread all the way back probably before Christmas, and as usual, got distracted (it’s Michelle Obama’s arms, doncha know?). What Aunt Toby wants you to do is to think about stuff that we usually just throw away; or give to the birds; or throw on the compost heap, as food that we can recycle into something else. So, you say you don’t like the stems of broccoli – cook ‘em up in chicken broth, run it all through a blender and you’ve got yummy broccoli soup (jazz it up with some cheddar and you are good to go). We’ve covered left-over mashed potatoes already. Today’s topic (as you can see above) is left over bread. (more…)

Cheap and Good: No Excuses Weightlifting

Today, Aunt Toby wants you to think of our little meeting place here as Kitchen Counter Gymnasium. We’re going to talk today about getting more strength into our lives … at home.

So, you say you don’t have the money for a gym membership. Okay – Aunt Toby is good with that.
And you say you have never lifted weights and are just a little bit scared of hurting yourself. Yep – I’m with you there too. And you say that it’s not something you worry about really.

Just hold it right there, bucko. (more…)

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