Monday, March 30, 2009


The green glass juicer I've wanted all my life, waiting for me to come get it.

Some very special buttons.
Delicate silk embroidered flowers on some little girl's fancy collar.
Spidery fountain pen script, and faded scenes of Binghamton's past.
Wondering about the other hands and lives these things have known, driving with my husband through a peaceful, rainy Sunday.

I hope your weekends were full of happy little surprises.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

First picnic

Yesterday evening we furtively packed up our picnic basket and headed down to the river, all the while feeling like we were getting away with something. Just as when we were kids, getting into mischief and knowing that at any minute some Adult would walk in and break up the fun, last night felt like a pleasure always on the verge of disruption. I suppose there are some more licentious parallels I could draw as well, but I'll leave those to you. Let's just say, there came a soft blue twilight at the end of March, and we savored every waking minute.

Nesting our root beers into the dried riverbank grasses, we sat and watched and listened. Of all the things to miss about living in a city, the curiosity and intrigue of just sitting and opening your senses in an open space is what I miss the most. You never know what you'll encounter: a rattling flock of mergansers, the limp, lucid hump of an otter calmly drifting past, the pungency of a trampled clump of pennyroyal. All around you, secrets are being kept. The wild things watch you, and withhold, and wonder.

So, we sat and appreciated. We ate leftover potato salad, and toasted baguette with pesto.

And, when the air grew chilly and the moist ground threatened to soak through our unrolled sleeping bag, we picked up and headed home again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Onion Soup tres bien

You almost had us, March. You'd almost convinced us all that it was truly spring, season of mild weather, gentle breezes, and soft pastels. The porch furniture was popping out like mushrooms all over the neighborhood, seeds were being sown, plans were being made. Trust was being forged.

And the time was right, naturally, for you to sock us with another week of winter. Snow-salted sidewalks, knife-toothed wind, and raw, gray mornings. Though I was as suckered into spring as the next person, it was kind of enjoyable to sigh and get the soup pot down off its hanger again. Though spring is the beginning of many things, it is emphatically the end of soup season. Turns out, I wasn't ready to let it go. Not quite yet.

I've been kicking around this recipe for French Onion Soup for awhile now. It's in Voluptuous Vegan, by Myra Kornfeld, and it's vegan. More importantly, (for us at least) it's vegetarian. I figured I wouldn't miss the beef stock, what with all the marvelous onions and leeks and goodness that goes into this soup. I was right.

I maintain, though, that cheese is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, and so our tureens of onion soup were gratinized with gruyere.

French Onion Soup (adapted from Voluptuous Vegan)

1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups chopped onions
5 cups chopped leeks (about 5 medium, white part only; save the greens for stock)
3/4 cup minced shallots
1 cup sliced scallions (about 4)
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups good-quality vegetable stock-- Imagine makes a good one, or use homemade
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp molasses
1 tsp salt, more to taste
a healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper

1/2 baguette, cut into thin rounds
~1 cup grated gruyere cheese

Warm the oil in a big, flat-bottomed pot. Add the onions and leeks. Cook, stirring, for ten minutes, until the onions are wilted. Toss in the rest of the veggies: scallions, shallots, and garlic. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook slowly for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Now, add the stock, soy sauce, and molasses. Bring the mixture up to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover partially and cook for another half hour.

Meanwhile, spread your baguette slices on a cookie sheet, and rev up your broiler. Broil the rounds, watching attentively to make sure they don't burn. Flip them and broil the other side. Set aside.

If you have oven-safe soup bowls or gratin dishes, make sure they're on standby.

Once the soup is done cooking, place three baguette rounds in each bowl, and ladle soup over top. Sprinkle with a zealous amount of grated cheese. If you're using oven-safe bowls, you can slide them in under the broiler for five minutes to brown. Dig in and enjoy.

For best results, drink lots of red wine on the side.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wanna read a silly story?

Then head on over here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Easter egg potato salad

Heavens be praised. My potato bin is finally empty!

The pretty pastel colors of this potato salad were perfect for an auspicious spring meal.

Easter Egg Potato Salad

3 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
1/2 cup pickle juice
3/4 cup mayo (I used fat free
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1/3 cup milk or buttermilk
1 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup finely minced red onion
1/2 cup finely diced pickle
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Pour on the pickle juice, stir gently, and let cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, buttermilk, vinegar, mustard, and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the potatoes, and add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Editor's note: the funny-looking things on the side are zucchini pancakes. Don't ask.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Refashion #4: Baby doll top

New thing I know how to do that I didn't know how to do yesterday: ruching.

Who knew it was so easy? I've been inspired lately by posts like this one on CraftStylish, and gorgeous pictures like this one. I've never had much of an interest in fashion, but something-- the season, the great uncharted fronteir of garment sewing-- who knows where my interests come from, anyway? At any rate, I've been tearing my closet apart, heaping everything I haven't worn in two years onto a great pile in my craft room, a soft frilly version of a parts department.

This was the original item, just after I rotary-cuttered the bottom off, said, "Oh, shit, I wanted to take a before picture!," and grabbed my camera. It was a thrift store score-- shapeless, too-big potato sack fit-- but nice, light, 100% cotton.

I cut off the bottom 14 inches of the dress to use for the pleaty part, and patterned the strappy part after a cotton top from my closet. I sewed the two pieces together, and from there, I followed the directions I linked to above.

It fits, but I'm not sure I'll be wearing it this summer. Regrettably, it does make me look demurely pregnant.

But hey, that day will come. I'll just think of this as a premature maternity top. There. Wasn't I thinking ahead when I sewed this one!

I feel better already. Whew.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


A sunny March Saturday, a friendly antiques dealer, a stack of vintage napkins, and all is well with the world. I hadn't been out rummaging in my usual haunts for awhile (the winter doldrums?). It was so refreshing to get back out and spend some time poking around for treasures.

The napkins are great, really, but the true gem is the little Princess Embroidery Kit ($3) I found, complete with little pattern-printed handkerchiefs, floss, and a miniature packet of needles. All the more charming are the snaggledy rows of cross-stitches some little hands worked on one of the hankies. So sweet!

I also found an old childrens' book, from 1934. Do you recognize the cast of characters? It's a Winnie-the-Pooh book, pre-Disneyfication, when Winnie was really just a stiff and very much inanimate teddy bear, and Christopher Robin looked something like Chucky. A dour little boy indeed.

My general relationship with antiques stores is rather fickle. Some I love, some I loathe. Too often so-called "antiques stores" are really just shelf upon shelf filled with clutter: chipped dishes, Happy Meal toys from ten years ago, the denizens of figurines dredged from the homes of a hundred little old ladies. You know the kind. I always walk out of those places thinking, I have enough of my own junk as it is, why would I want to buy someone else's?

Almost as often, antiques stores are preceded by a cultivated sophistication, an air of haughty superiority. There will be lovingly polished mahogany spindles, the soft glow of authentic Tiffany lamps. Sinatra or Martin, Fitzgerald or Holiday will tinkle from a genuine Zenith radio, circa 1938. This is what happens in the towns where fat-walleted yuppies like to take their vacations.

Fortunately, Binghamton is not such a town. On Clinton Street, so-called Antiques Row, there are the sort of sweet, dusty little shops I love. I don't mind the crackle of an AM station in the background, or the nutty banter of the shopkeep. I'm partial to old linens, curiosities, and buckets of old hardware kicking around on the floor. I've found some great old buttons in the bottoms of dusty boxes. It's the thrill of the hunt, and I'm happy as long as there's something worth hunting for.

That's my thrifting/antiquing manifesto. What's yours?

Friday, March 20, 2009


Oh, radishes. You just don't let a girl down, do you?

Even though I planted last Thursday, I did not expect to see evidence of growth anytime soon. If you recall, it snowed the morning after I planted these guys. Not exactly an inspiring event.

But, here they are. A testament to the powers of solar radiation. And springtime.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thrifty kitchen: making stock

I have a penchant for doing things myself.

Penchant might be an understatement. Some of you might look at my cheese , my butter, my pizza and jam, and shake your heads. No, Kristina, you'll say, it's not a penchant, it's an obsession. Well, maybe. But for the purposes of me not feeling like a nut, we'll call it a penchant. Bear with me.

I can't explain why I have this penchant, exactly. I'm not particularly distrustful of the government, I have no inklings of impending natural disasters or apocalypses. I'm not a survivalist. Nor am I penny pincher (anyone who's seen my latest credit card bill could tell you that).

All the same, I take great satisfaction in my makings. It's never about saving a buck-- it's about challenging myself, gaining some new perspective on something ordinary, and learning. And having fun.

But, of course, it does save a buck, now, doesn't it? Well. Yes. Maybe even two or three. And given the state of our Union (great reluctant buck-saving nation that we are), I thought it might be apt to start a series: Thrifty Kitchen.

Once a month, there will be a post here with a recipe, and some very easy way to trim a couple bucks. Easy. I promise. No cheese thermometers. No fancy kitchen gadgets. And in the end, there will be something interesting, rewarding, and delicious sitting there on your plate.

Homemade Soup Stock

What you need:

A large-ish pot


A few handfuls of sorry-looking vegetables or kitchen scraps

Some dried herbs or spices, if you wish

Put your vegetables or kitchen scraps in your pot. (Garlic is a must; carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes are good too. Use strongly-flavored vegetables like cabbage, peppers, and broccoli sparingly.) Fill your pot the rest of the way up with water, stopping about an inch before the brim. Add some seasonings-- black pepper, dried thyme, and a bay leaf are a good trio-- and bring to a boil. Let the pot simmer, uncovered, for an hour. Strain your stock through a paper towel and you're done.

I love this for several reasons. One, the bouillion you buy at the store is mostly salt. Who wants to pay $.99 for a can of salt water? Two, stock making is the salvation of withered, sorry-looking vegetables everywhere. It hurts my heart to see food go to waste. Making soup stock gives me a way of using these guys, these vegetables non grata. I also really like the fact that you can make stock with kitchen scraps. I've taken to starting a big pot of water boiling before I even begin making soup, and peeling my carrots and potatoes directly into the pot. By the time I'm ready to make my soup, I have fresh, amazing, free vegetable stock. And into the soup it goes!

Vegetable stock can be frozen, canned (via pressure canning), or stored in the fridge to be used within three days.

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